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Refund to be required even when parcel open

Wang Xiaodong
Updated: Aug 8,2016 7:17 AM     China Daily

Consumers in China will be entitled to a full refund on unsatisfactory products purchased online, even if the packages have been unsealed, under a draft regulation that protects buyers’ rights.

The latest draft, released by the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, is based on China’s consumer protection law. Public opinion is being sought until Sept 5.

The draft says businesses must provide refunds to consumers within seven days of receiving returned products.

The returned goods must be intact. Goods whose packages have been opened for inspection or goods that have been tested only for inspection of quality and function are considered intact, the draft says.

The rule does not apply to several types of goods such as those that can pose hazards to personal safety or health after opened, or perishable goods that are near their expiration dates, it says.

Under China’s consumer rights protection law, revised in 2014, consumers can return goods for up to seven days, and get a refund for items that fail quality standards.

In the case of goods purchased online or by telephone or TV, consumers can make returns within seven days and get a refund without specifying a reason for most products. The only exceptions are four types of goods, including those that are perishable and prone to spoilage, and videodiscs that have been opened, according to a regulation issued by the administration in 2014.

Wu Jingming, an associate professor in economic law at China University of Political Science and Law who participated in the formulation of the draft, said this is the first draft regulation in China that specifies clearly that goods bought online can be returned for a refund, even if the packages have been opened.

“The regulation is scheduled by the State Council to be adopted in October, though there are likely to be some changes made to the draft,” he said.

“The regulation was made because there have been a number of disputes in recent years involving businesses refusing to offer refunds for goods that they sold online, using the excuse that the packages have been opened,” he said.

Many types of goods, such as clothing and electrical appliances, are not damaged by being taken out of the package, and businesses should agree to a refund if asked, whenever the quality of the goods is not affected, he said.

“I hope the regulation can be carried out so I will be able to buy more clothes online and not worry whether the sizes are OK before placing the order,” said Wang Li, a government employee in Beijing.

About 30 percent of goods sold on 10 major e-commerce platforms in China failed quality standards, according to an inspection by the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine that covered goods such as toys, clothing and electrical appliances last year.

Half of consumers have bought fake products online, and about 23 percent said they have been refused refunds because they had opened the packages, according to a survey of 1,237 respondents that was conducted by Southern Metropolis Daily last year.