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China Daily Website

Legislature mulls consumer rights law changes

Updated: 2013-04-24 00:45
( Xinhua)

BEIJING - China's top legislature on Tuesday began reading draft amendments to the consumer rights law, marking the first time changes have been considered since it took effect 20 years ago.

"Consumption patterns, structure and concepts in China have undergone great changes over the past two decades, and new problems have emerged in the field of consumer rights protection," said Li Shishi, chairman of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the National People's Congress Standing Committee.

While briefing national lawmakers during a three-day bimonthly legislative session that opened on Tuesday, Li said amending the law aims to improve the protection of consumers' rights and interests, boost consumer confidence and promote "rational consumption that should be energy-efficient and environmentally friendly."

The consumer rights law, which was enacted in 1993, has played a key role in "protecting consumers' interests, maintaining economic and social order and promoting the healthy development of the socialist market economy," he said.

Under the draft amendments, the role of consumers' associations and supervision over consumer rights protection will be further strengthened in order to prevent consumer disputes, according to the Legislative Affairs Commission chief.

Online shopping legislation

With China's e-commerce market expanding at full speed, the country is for the first time considering amending its consumer rights law to protect online shoppers.

The wide spread of information technology has allowed the Internet, TV and telephone-based commerce to surge, Li said.

However, consumers select commodities merely through pictures and text descriptions online, and they cannot identify the goods' authenticity and are susceptible to deceptive advertisement.

Therefore, the draft amendments stress the protection of consumers' right to knowledge, saying sellers should provide authentic and necessary details of their products or services to e-shoppers.

The draft also ensures e-shoppers' right of choice and grants them the right to unilaterally terminate contracts. "Consumers have the right to return goods within seven days and get refund," according to the proposal.

"The cooling off period of seven days" allows e-shoppers to change their minds, which is in line with international conventions, said Hu Gang, an expert from the Internet Society of China.

"Online shoppers can ask for compensation from the e-trade platform if the seller has stopped using the platform," the draft said, adding the platform can claim compensation from the seller after compensating e-shoppers.

The move is "significant" as it increases the responsibility of online platforms, which further protects online shoppers' rights, Hu said.

China's booming online commerce industry is expected to reap more than 1.1 trillion yuan ($ 175 billion) in revenue in 2012,  statistics from the Ministry of Commerce showed.

The industry has experienced rapid growth in China, with total revenue expanding from 25.8 billion yuan in 2006 to 780 billion in 2011, which dwarfed that of many western countries.

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