Chinese consumers to get better protection

Proposed changes to legislation will grant customers 'right to regret'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 April, 2013, 5:33am

Mainland shoppers can look forward to greater buyer protection, including being granted "the right to regret", under an amendment to the 1994 consumer rights law currently under review.

Changes proposed in the draft will close loopholes, raise the cap on penalties for non-compliant firms and expand the reach of the law. The amendment, if approved, would help spur domestic consumption, a key policy objective of the central government over the next five years, industry participants said.

Xinhua reported this week that a draft amendment of the consumer rights law is being reviewed by the National People's Congress - the first revisions to the law since it came into force in January 1994.

The draft proposes to include e-commerce, television shopping channels and telephone shopping in the law. Online shoppers will be allowed "the right to regret" under the draft, which gives consumers the right to return goods within seven days of purchase and get a refund.

Meanwhile, it enhances the provisions of the existing guarantee policy, stressing vendors must replace or repair products that fail to meet quality standards or else give the buyers a refund.

The draft puts the burden of proof on the vendor in case of a legal dispute. Sellers of durable goods - such as vehicles, computers, television sets and refrigerators - are responsible for supplying evidence of a product's quality to the court if a consumer raises a complaint within six months of a purchase.

The new amendment seems to impose more limitations on business operators, but it actually can benefit the retail market in the long run

At present, consumers often have to pay to take the product to a third party for inspection.

The draft also forbids businesses from leaking consumers' personal data or using it for commercial purposes. It raises the ceiling for penalties for violators to 500,000 yuan (HK$629,000) from 10,000 yuan.

"The new amendment seems to impose more limitations on business operators, but it actually can benefit the retail market in the long run," said Qiu Baochang, director of the consumer rights committee of the Beijing Lawyers Association, who was involved in the drafting of the amendment.

"People will be more willing to spend when their rights are better protected, and retailers will therefore enjoy better business."

A spokesman for a domestic vehicle manufacturer said most carmakers already met the requirements specified in the amendment, "but we would raise both hands in approval of it, as it pushes us to improve our product quality and service".

Zuo Yingjie, chief executive of new7.com an online home appliances shop, said the burden of proof on business operators may add to their costs, but the impact would be limited.

"E-commerce players are already caring more and more about the customer experience, owing to intense competition," he said. "Only a very small number of disputes with customers need to be taken to court."