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Closer checks for online shopping scams in Beijing

By Qin Zhongwei (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-02-09 13:05
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Beijing will invoke harsher monitoring of online trade to counter an eruption of Internet fraud cases.

There will be a crackdown on scams by strengthening the monitoring network to track online trade, said Zhang Zhikuan, head of Beijing Administration for Industry and Commerce (BAIC), at the BAIC annual meeting in early January.

BAIC said the capital processed 1,067 cases of online transaction fraud and related issues last year, and issued fines of more than 16 million yuan, according to Wu Song from the publicity department of BAIC yesterday.

In order to guarantee safe transactions on the Internet, the administration will also work closely with Beijing Bureau of Public Security to check the identities of online shopping website owners, Zhang said.

The BAIC said it would particularly reprimand websites that violate consumer and intellectual rights, provoke unfair competition, and exaggerate advertisements.

At the same time, Beijing is also planning to gradually enforce real name registration on large e-commerce websites, said Shu Xiaofeng, director of Capital Civilization Office.

According to statistics released in January by Cao Fei, an analyst from Analysys International, the number of shoppers is approximately 100 million and accounts for 28.2 percent of China's Internet users.

The rapid growth of online trade has pushed the total volume to over 250 billion yuan nationwide, with the C2C sector surpassing 230 billion yuan and B2C hitting 22 million yuan, Cao told METRO.

Beijing and Shanghai are now the two biggest users of Taobao.com, China's largest online shopping website, said Lin Ya, secretary-general of Beijing E-commerce Association.

Taobao.com unveiled its latest plan on Jan 5 to multiply up its consumer rights protection service to 100 million yuan from 20 million yuan.

Dangdang.com, China's largest online bookseller, has a similar strategy. "We always carefully select online sellers and require them to hand in a deposit beforehand. We promise to compensate the consumer with the deposit if they complain about products," said Xu Lin, a public relations officer with the company.

But this does not solve the problem completely because there are many small online shopping websites that don't have similar regulation policies, Lin said.

According to a survey done by Sina.com at the end of 2009, almost three-quarters of 21,493 respondents said they had experienced "being cheated", and four-fifths said they were "unsatisfied" with the government's crackdown on the selling of fake products.

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Lin suggested the authority establish a special regulation to cater uniquely to online shopping.

"Online shopping is different from regular shopping and has its own problems. For example, the identities of retailers are usually not authentic, and buyers and sellers are often from different regions. There is still a lot of work for the government to do," Lin told METRO.

Phil Hill from UK became an online shopping victim after spending $200 dollars to buy an iPhone from a Beijing seller through an online website last November. Instead of receiving the smart phone, he was posted a plastic toy phone and a rock wrapped in cardboard, "presumably to add weight to the package".

Todd Balazovic contributed to the story