China’s first e-commerce law to discipline market growth

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The logos of the WeChat and Weibo apps displayed in the screen of a mobile phone. Reuters

BEIJING (Xinhua) – Meng Yan is a 28-year-old white-collar worker who has recently noticed that there are fewer advertisements on her WeChat moments.

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She used to feel bothered by constant WeChat ads posted by her friends or acquaintances selling products ranging from import infant formula to skin-care products, a popular e-commerce practice on social media in China.

“I was cheated once. I bought one eye cream from a WeChat store, which turned out to be a fake. I complained to the vendor, only to be blocked,” Ms Meng said.

The disappearance of some of the WeChat ads might be because such individual e-commerce practices are coming under tighter scrutiny. China’s first e-commerce law taking effect Tuesday aims to keep the world’s largest e-commerce sector running on an orderly track.

China started mulling an e-commerce law in 2013. After years of development, the much-anticipated law was adopted by the country’s top law-making body in August last year.

Protecting consumer rights is one priority. Shoppers will feel more reassured while purchasing online, as the new law bans vendors from unscrupulous practices like deleting shopper reviews, cancelling orders at will and click farming.

Vendors on e-commerce platforms, WeChat, live-streaming websites and other online platforms are required to register their business, receive a license, pay taxes and be held responsible for fraudulent goods. Rule-breakers can face fines up to 2 million yuan ($290,900).

A recent survey of over 12,000 online shoppers by China Consumers Association (CCA) showed that over 70 percent had been sold knock-off products by e-commerce platforms.

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