Protecting consumers

Consumers are welcomed by staff members at the IKEA Wuxi Store in Wuxi, east China’s Jiangsu Province, on June 6, 2012. (Huan Wei/Xinhua)

For the first time since its enactment 20 years ago, China’s top legislature is reviewing a draft amendment to the country’s consumer rights law, which will further protect consumers’ rights, better protect their privacy and impose harsher punishments on commercial fraud.

The changes are aimed at boosting consumer confidence and promoting consumption.

About half of the complaints received by the country’s commercial departments and associations are about quality problems, and the amendment clarifies the conditions for the return, exchange or repair of goods. It includes a seven-day cooling-off period for online purchases, except goods such as foods and live products, in which consumers can return their purchases and get a full refund.

This marks a positive step toward better protecting the rights and interests of the growing number of online consumers, as there has been a rise in the number of disputes, as some online retailers use deceptive pictures and text descriptions of products to persuade e-shoppers to buy.

The draft imposes harsher penalties on sellers found defrauding consumers, imposing fines equivalent to up to three times the value of goods or services and criminal liabilities for defective products that damage health or result in death, and it proposes that sellers should immediately suspend production and sale of their products, issue a warning and recall products if they discover their products are defective and could cause harm.

The draft also extends better protection to consumers’ personal information. Consumers are entitled to have their name, portraits and privacy protected, and business owners will have to inform consumers of the purpose, form and scope of any intended use and obtain their consent. This is intended to reduce the abuse of personal information that has become increasingly rampant in recent years.

Consumer associations are also to be empowered to play a bigger role in helping consumers safeguard their rights and interests through legal means when violations arise.

The draft amendment is a worthy move to better safeguard consumers’ rights and interests and will facilitate its bid to build a consumption-led economy.

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