China tightens watch on growing e-commerce sector

E-commerce has been growing by leaps and bounds on the mainland but the laws regulating this sector are only just beginning to catch up.

In the space of just three years, online sales on the mainland soared from US$3 billion to US$64 billion in 2012, a figure that took the United States a decade to achieve.

The mainland became the world’s second-largest online retail market last year, with business-to-consumer (B2C) growth expected to average up to 34 per cent over the next five years, according to forecasts.

In spite of the exponential growth, little has been done to regulate these transactions. However, the recent third plenum announced several laws that will take effect in less than two months.

Among the changes on March 15, consumers will be able to return goods within seven days without specifying a reason as long as they are in “good condition”, with exceptions for custom-made products and perishables, among others…

The new law also requires online sellers to register their names and addresses, making it easier to pursue legal action against counterfeiters. If an online platform is unable to provide vendor contact information, consumers can seek compensation from the platform itself, placing a real burden on online marketplaces to verify that the businesses they work with are legitimate.

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By Tiffany Ap and Joanna Chiu

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