Law revision gives new rights to online customers

Law revision gives new rights to online customers

CHINA - Online customers are allowed a seven-day cooling-off period to return goods for refund after a revision to the consumer rights law was passed by China's top legislature on Friday.

The revision to the Law on the Protection of Consumer Rights and Interests was passed by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress after three readings since April. It states that people can return goods seven days after they receive them through online, telephone and television shopping.

The revised law, which will take effect on March 15, came at a time when the country is trying to further boost domestic consumption. One of the major purposes of the revision is to give more protection to non-traditional shoppers, Jia Dongming, head of the civil law division under the Commission for Legislative Affairs of the NPC Standing Committee, told a news conference on Friday.

"If people feel safer and are more willing to spend, business will see more revenue and profit and domestic demand will expand. The whole country will benefit," he said.

The consumer rights law before the revision failed to cover new business areas and models that have emerged over the years, such as online shopping, which now accounts for 6.3 per cent of total retail sales of consumer goods in the country, a total sales volume of 1.3 trillion yuan ($213.5 billion).

Wu Jingming, a professor of consumer rights law at China University of Political Science and Law, said the new clause on the cooling-off period for online shopping is a "revolutionary breakthrough" in legislation.

"It is a practice common in the United States and European countries. People can simply give the excuse 'I don't like it' and return it. It protects them from impulsive and irrational purchases," he said.

The buyer is required to pay for the return costs of the refund process.

In order to prevent people from abusing the clause, the revised law has also listed four kinds of merchandise that people cannot return, including customised products, fresh and perishable products, digital products such as software and online downloadable products, and newspapers and magazines.

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