Complaints rise about online shopping mishaps

Updated: 2011-03-15 10:55

By Qiu Bo (China Daily)

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Beijing - Xiao Gu, a resident of Zhangjiajie city in Central China's Hunan province, has been bothered in recent days by a disappointing attempt at shopping online.

Complaints rise about online shopping mishaps

Xiao Gu went to the Internet three months ago to order a series of volumes in the classic Chinese novel A Dream in Red Mansions, paying 400 yuan ($60). But the seller, instead of sending the package quickly, postponed the delivery, proved reluctant to answer Xiao's questions over the phone and finally disappeared from the web.

Xiao was at first tempted to report the case to police but decided against taking that step after recognizing she had no knowledge of the swindler's whereabouts. Her situation appears to be a common one among Chinese consumers who like to shop online.

The number of complaints about online shopping in China increased by 8 percent from 2009 to 2010, according to a consumer rights advocacy group.

At a conference held in Beijing on Monday, one day ahead of World Consumer Rights Day, the China Association for Quality Promotion said it received more complaints about online shopping than any other subject in 2010.

Regions throughout the country are reporting a similar trend.

In Shandong province, the provincial consumers' association said on Monday that the number of complaints it received about online shopping grew by 170 percent from 2009 to 2010.

And the consumer association of Shenzhen, Guangdong province, received 1,800 complaints involving online shopping last year, according to the organization's statistics.

Qian Jun, a lawyer at the Beijing-based Yingke Law Firm who specializes in online-shopping disputes, said that among the online shopping cases he has dealt with, most concerned products of substandard quality.

Also common are complaints about swindlers who establish false website to lure in consumers, a trap similar to what Xiao Gu fell into. Other online shoppers claim to be the victims of unreasonable conditions set by express delivery services.

A recent survey disclosed that among 11 express companies surveyed in Guangzhou, 10 were found to be imposing unfair clauses on consumers. Such companies, for instance, are suspected of issuing statements claiming they do not have to compensate consumers when packages are damaged during delivery.

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In response to the complaints, authorities have bolstered their efforts to protect consumers' rights.

The State Post Bureau said earlier this month that it suspended the business of 17 Chinese express delivery companies because they lacked operating licenses.

Meanwhile, the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) said on Monday that authorities last year retrieved 980 million yuan for buyers who were cheated.

"Over the past year, we have expanded the channels through which consumers can voice their grievances, while great improvements have been made in responses to consumer complaints," said Wang Dongfeng, deputy head of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce.

China's online retail sales reached 520 billion yuan in 2010, almost double the figure for 2009, according to a report by China's E-commerce Research Center.

China has the world's biggest Internet population, comprising more than 457 million users. Many in that group are willing and able to make purchases online, said the China Internet Network Information Center in January.

Last June, the SAIC issued a regulation meant to bring order to the chaos of online shopping.

"The most efficient way to eliminate these complaints is to establish stricter regulations for supervising online commerce," Qian said.

He also advised shoppers to consider things other than price when making purchases online and only to visit websites with good reputations.


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