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China highlights online fake fight on consumer rights day

Enlarge Font Size  Decrease Font Size Date: 2016-03-18  Source: Xinhua English  View: 66
BEIJING - For many Chinese shoppers, there are two big days on the calendar. Snapping up deals during the online buying fiesta known as Singles' Day (Nov.11), they return to their screen four months later to sift through screens of news to see how many of their purchases have been exposed as faulty or fake.

China usually marks World Consumer Rights Day on March 15 with a string of media exposures, police crackdowns and bonfires of fake goods. This year, the spotlight is on persistent counterfeiting that dampens the country's raging online shopping fever.

A report published before the "3.15" show by China Central Television (CCTV) said online shopping had become the top source of consumer complaints the broadcaster received. The show, which exposes problematic products and services often by renowned domestic and foreign brands, marks the culmination of the day.

The report cites purchase of a knock-off LV handbag on to highlight the prevalence of shoddy or fake goods in the online marketplace. It also accused WeChat Business, which allows WeChat users to sell products via the messaging app, of being fraught with pitfalls and lacking supervision.

The China Consumers Association also pointed to complaints about online shopping which, in 2015, made up nearly 70 percent of all complaints.

Self discipline

Responding to the pressures ahead of World Consumer Rights Day, several e-commerce platforms have promised reinforcements in the battle against fake goods. on Tuesday said it would work with the Certification and Accreditation Administration to ensure it only sells certificated goods.

Tencent, which operates WeChat, responded to the public outcry against frauds on WeChat Business on Monday, saying it had closed 11,000 accounts suspected of selling fake products.

Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, whose Tmall and Taobao are two of China's largest shopping sites, gave a spirited speech last week to mobilize his anti-counterfeit team into not just "bludgeoning the rats," but also "eliminating their nest."

The team, nicknamed S.H.I.E.L.D. after the Marvel agent, now uses big data to sniff out counterfeit sellers and makers, turning over thousands of pieces of evidence to the police leading to more than 700 arrests over knock-offs ranging from Cartier jewelry to Nike sneakers.

Counterfeiting was around long before online shopping, but slack supervision by platform operators was believed to worsen the situation, though the operators argue that they are also victims and can not address the problem alone.

Liu Jun, legal professor with Renmin University of China, said China's headlong rush into the online shopping era has focused on growth, efficiency and convenience, often at the negligence of regulation, honesty and safety.

He praised the self-discipline by Internet companies, but said third-party supervision is often lacking.

Yao Jiangang, analyst with China Electronic Commerce Association, agrees that self-regulation is not enough to tackling chronic counterfeiting.

"The platforms' and businesses' entangled interests may dent the anti-counterfeit campaign. What is really going on may still be behind closed doors to media and consumers," Yao said.

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