Buying on Alibaba: rules for preventing and resolving disputes with sellers
Platforms such as Alibaba are increasingly used by SMEs to contact foreign suppliers or sellers, especially Chinese and Asian ones.
The main problems in the transnational online purchase on these platforms refer to shipment or delays and non-conformity of the sold product.
To avoid these problems it is important to take some precautions in the purchase order or contract and to know the tools that the platform offers to protect the parties.
The purchase order or contract should always indicate the details of the product in terms of quality and quantity, the delivery terms and the conditions for terminating the contract, return and refund, providing for this possibility even in the event of unexpected changes in transport costs. or raw materials.
Alibaba makes an online dispute resolution (ODR) platform available to its users (sellers and buyers) through its Complaint Center.
Application for dispute resolution shall be made to Alibaba within a maximum period of 30 days which cannot exceed 30 calendar days after the Date of Confirmed Receipt of the Products. If the order is closed by Alibaba.com, application shall be made within thirty days of receipt of the notice that the order has been closed. Alibaba.com has the right to extend the time limit or not to set a time limit for accepting application for dispute resolution if, in Alibaba.com’s reasonable opinion, there is a dispute involving suspected fraud (Articles 17 and 18 Alibaba.com Transaction Dispute Rules).
The dispute resolution system operated by Alibaba is governed by the following service agreements:
(1) Transaction Services Agreement
By using the platform, you agree that Alibaba can resolve any disputes between sellers and buyers and you accept the competence of the Hong Kong International Arbitration Center for challenging the decisions taken by Alibaba in the mediation procedure (Articles 2.8 and 10).
(2) Agreement on Use of Complaint Center
(3) Alibaba.com Transaction Dispute Rules
This agreement establishes the procedural rules for submitting the mediation request to the Alibaba Complaint Center, for presenting evidence and for terminating the mediation process. It also includes the rules under which Alibaba decides on the dispute (obligations and responsibilities of the parties relating to shipping, delivery, returns, customs clearance of goods and product quality).
(4) Trade Assurance Services Rules
This agreement defines the terms and conditions of the insurance program, which allows the prepayment of the reimbursement of the purchases by Alibaba in place of the seller.
Alibaba can also apply a system of internal sanctions that can lead to the blocking of the use of the platform. See for example: Rules for Enforcement Action against Non-Compliance of Transactions on Alibaba.com
In the online mediation proceedings before Alibaba, only the correspondence between seller and buyer can be used as proof and saved on the chat inside the platform (Alibaba's official chat tool). Any other evidence (contracts, phone calls, emails, messages exchanged on other platforms) can only be used upon acceptance by the seller and buyer.
Avv. Lifang Dong and Avv. Chiara Civitelli
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