As China’s online retail sales soar, so does buyer’s remorse. The Chinese government’s recently enacted consumer protection laws regulating online merchants are meant to help make the return process easier for online shoppers, but Chinese state-run media is now claiming that when it comes to luxury goods, e-tailers allegedly aren’t always offering legally mandated return options.
“I bought a bag on JD.com that cost over 10,000 yuan (US$1,610), but when I wanted to return it, I was informed that I couldn’t,” said a shopper named Miss Zeng from Chengdu to a Huaxi City Daily (华西都市报) news reporter. Zeng said that she bought the bag from the e-commerce site a week ago, and didn’t like it when she received it. When she contacted customer support, she was told that under JD.com rules, luxury items cannot be returned.
Zeng is not alone in being unable to return her buyer’s regret when it comes to luxury purchases, says the article. It claims that in addition to JD.com, there are many other online merchants that refuse to honor the recently enacted “seven-day unconditional returns” law. Luxury designer clothes, handbags, jewelry, and watches are among some of the special goods many merchants will not take back.
The original “consumer protection law” in China enacted in 1994 was expanded this year on the March 15 World Consumer Rights Day. It included provisions for China’s rapidly booming e-commerce industry and afforded greater protection for consumers. Under the new consumer law, online merchants also have to honor the seven-day returns policy, with the exception of four categories of goods: perishable items, digital downloads or opened audio/video equipment, software and digital products, and newspapers and periodicals.
This new law accompanied Chinese state media attacks on e-commerce for the annual consumer holiday. CCTV denounced the online retailer Alibaba on its annual Consumer Rights Day Gala (央视315晚会). Huaxi City Daily’s article on consumers’ frustrations with being unable to return luxury items seems to be yet another development in a state-run media trend of attacking online retailers.
Other Chinese media have also found out that online merchants have also included additional clauses to the seven-day return policy. Chinese news site Beijing Youth Daily reports that some sites such as JD.com, Suning, and Amazon China also do not take back underwear, cosmetics, and goods beyond a certain value, such as watches over $80.
“The value of the goods are too high, which is why we do not accept luxury goods returns,” said a customer support representative of online merchant Jumei to Huaxi City Daily. Merchants are claiming that these high-value goods are classified under “goods of a special nature” in a sub-clause of the new consumer law, and merchants are free to decide whether they will accept returns or not.
For now, customers like Zeng will have to read the fine print carefully, despite the protections supposedly afforded to online consumers like her. “The ‘seven-day returns policy’ law is far from perfect,” says Beijing lawyer Zhanling Zhao to Huaxi City Daily. “It is vague and needs to address all these loopholes.”