Interim Measures for the 7-Day Unconditional Return of Goods Purchased Online(Mainland China)

James Cheng

After the new Law of Protection of Consumer Rights and Interests (the “Law”) came into effect on March 15, 2014, Article 25 provides that except for special goods, consumers have the right to return goods sold by via the Internet, television, telephone or mail order within seven days upon receipt of the goods without a reason. However, there are different understandings regarding the applicability and practice of the “7-day unconditional return,” particularly the “scope of return” and how the “merchandise is still intact,” which gave rise to disputes. To further clarify how goods purchased by a consumer online may be returned, the Administration of Industry and Commerce prescribed the Interim Measures for the 7-Day Unconditional Return of Goods Purchased Online (the “Interim Measures”) to further clarify Article 25 of the Law. The Interim Measures are highlighted below:
1. Confirmation of the scope of goods not applicable for unconditional return
Article 6 of the Interim Measures provides for goods that are not covered by the 7-day unconditional return, which include custom-made goods, fresh and perishable goods, and audiovisual products which are downloaded online or whose seals have been opened by the consumers, digital goods such as computer software, and delivered newspapers and periodicals. In addition, Article 20, Paragraph 1 provides that online sellers shall implement technical measures or other methods to specifically indicate which goods are not covered by the 7-day unconditional return.
Article 7 provides for goods that may be exempt from the 7-day unconditional return upon confirmation at the time of purchase by the consumers. However, the online seller is required to set up a conspicuous required confirmation step in the purchase process so that the consumer may confirm such single purchase; if there is no such confirmation, the online seller may not refuse 7-day unconditional return. Goods that may be exempt from unconditional return include: any product that may be hazardous to life and safety or is easily degraded once opened, any product that loses a large portion of its value once used or tried out, any goods that are near their expiration dates at the time of sale, or any goods that contain flaws or defects.
2. Criteria of intactness
Goods which the consumer intends to return without cause should be kept intact. Article 8 of the Interim Measures further stipulates the criteria for determining if the goods are intact. If the original quality and functionality of the goods are maintained, and the goods per se and their accessories, and trademark indicators are complete, then they shall be deemed intact. However, reasonable inspection does not affect the intactness of goods. With respect to goods that have lost a relatively greater amount of value when they are used beyond a simple inspection and confirmation of their quality, Article 9 provides for the criteria for determining when goods are not considered intact for a variety of categories of goods. If the consumer needs to open the product packaging to inspect the goods or check their quality and functionality, a reasonable usage trial will not affect the intactness of goods.
3. Return procedure
The Interim Measures specifically provide that the 7-day unconditional return period shall commence on the day following the consumer’s acceptance of the goods. A consumer shall send the return notice to the online seller within seven days upon receipt of the goods. Meanwhile, to prevent a seller from refusing the return via excuses, the Interim Measures specifically provide for the refund period for online sellers; if the goods returned by the consumer are intact, the online seller shall refund the payment to the consumer within seven days upon receipt of the returned goods.