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April 25, 2014

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Tencent promises to improve service quality at 51Buy

INTERNET giant Tencent has agreed to improve the service offered by its online shopping arm,, following a slew of complaints from disgruntled customers and a public dressing down by the consumer watchdog.

The statement was made after talks — held yesterday in the presence of the media — at which the Shanghai Consumer Rights Protection Commission described the website’s practices as “unreasonable” and “misleading,” and ordered Tencent to rectify them.

The agency said since the start of the year it has received more than 1,180 complaints about 51Buy, the bulk of which were made after last month’s changes to the consumer rights law.

Starting from March 15, anyone who buys an item online is entitled to a full refund as long as the product is returned within seven days and is not on the exceptions list. The latter covers such things as perishables, newspapers and magazines, bespoke items, audio-visual products and computer software.

Store owners can add items to the list, but they must make it clear to consumers at the time of purchase, the commission said.

A large number of the complaints about 51buy were from customers claiming they had been refused refunds on goods, while others said it had not been made clear that the items they had bought were on the excluded list.

On the company’s app there is no information about which products can or cannot be returned, while on the website the position is not made clear, the commission said.

Another bone of contention was the website’s policy of charging a 10 percent “fee” on items returned after being opened, which was the subject of 35 percent of the complaints received by the commission.

“51Buy failed to tell consumers about the charge, which is misleading,” said Tang Jiansheng, deputy secretary-general of the commission.

“It’s natural for people to open packages when they get them, but 51Buy charges them if they do,” he said.

“Both the charge and the practice of charging are unreasonable,” he said.

Yang Linqi from Hongkou District said he was asked to pay a 10 percent fee after returning a printer he bought for 1,600 yuan (US$258). He was told the charge applied as he had opened the box.

“I’m happy to pay the return postage but I refuse to pay the 160 yuan fee,” he said.

Zhang Hong, who works for 51Buy, said the charge was to cover losses incurred when the company has to return items to its suppliers. But he agreed the site had failed to make clear which items were covered by the no-refund clause and promised that the problem would be rectified.


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