No return or exchange for clearance items?

Terina Nie

Terina Nie is a junior associate. She holds a bachelor’s degree in international economic law from the East China University of Political Science and Law in Shanghai (China) and a master’s degree in international trade and commercial law from the Durham University, in the UK. Prior to joining DaWo Law Firm, Terina worked as legal intern for large Chinese law firms and for De Wolf Law Firm Shanghai.

Have you ever been tempted by words like “clearance sale” and purchased some items online? But wait: you can’t return or exchange them because the seller told you that “the returning or exchanging goods within 7 days without any reason does not apply for clearance goods”? Is it really that the rule of “return and exchange goods without reason within 7 days” (the “Rule”) does not applicable to clearance items? This article discusses an actual case that might help reveal the answer.

Case Background

In the “Product Details” area of a Taobao store’s product sales page, the words “The rule of returning or exchanging goods without reason within 7 days does not applicable to clearance items. Please buy this item carefully if you mind (if you have any questions, please contact online customer service)” were prominently displayed (as shown in the picture below). A consumer bought this item from this Taobao store, and wanted to return if after receipt, but the store refused this consumer’s request on the grounds that it was a clearance item.

No return or exchange for clearance items?

After receiving the complaint from this consumer and conducting an investigation, the district Administration for Market Regulation in Shanghai (“AMR”) concluded that this Taobao store violated relevant laws and regulation, and ordered it to rectify (correct) the notice, an also imposed a fine of RMB 10,000.

Analysis

In a previous article, we explained that products customized by a buyer, fresh perishable goods, digitized goods such as audio-video product and computer software downloaded online, and things like newspapers and periodicals cannot be returned or exchanged within 7 days without any reason (Article 25.2 of Consumer Rights and Interests Protection Law).

On top of this, Article 7 of the Interim Measures for Return of Goods Purchased Online within Seven Days without Reason stipulates that upon confirmation by consumers at the time of purchase, the Rule may not apply to the following goods:

  • goods that may impact the personal safety, life, or health, or have their nature changed after initial unpacking;
  • goods which will devalue greatly upon activation or trial;
  • goods that are close to the expiration date or have defects, which has been indicated expressly at the time of sale.

The item involved in the case above was an ordinary good and did not fall within these scopes. As such, the store infringed the rights and interests of consumers by expanding the scope of goods not subject to the Rule, and was therefore punished by the AMR.

Takeaways

Office equipment, household goods, ordinary craft gifts, fabric products, daily necessities and other ordinary commodities do not fall within the scope of goods which cannot be returned or exchanged within 7 days without reason as regulated in the Consumer Rights and Interests Protection Law and the Interim Measures for Return of Goods Purchased Online within Seven Days without Reason. Stores and operators shall not expand the scope of such goods through unilateral notice or informing.

Moreover, as a consumer, it is always important to keep evidence of your purchases, such as details of promotions, promotional images, product order pages, chat records with online stores, logistics information, etc. These are all effective tools when you need to defend their rights as a consumer.

Let us know if you have any questions.