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Do non-brand-new commodities enjoy 7-day return & exchange policy?

english.bjinternetcourt.gov.cn | Updated: 2022-09-15


The Beijing Internet Court (BIC) recently concluded an online shopping contract dispute case which involved the return of a non-brand-new commodity after testing. The court ruled that the commodity qualified for the seven-day return and exchange policy and supported the plaintiff’s request to return it. The judgement is now in force.

Case summary

The plaintiff surnamed Song bought a sample  high speed blender labeled “95 percent new” from an online store owned by the defendant surnamed Tan. Upon receiving the item, Song unpacked it and turned on the power to have a test run. Song didn’t like the big noise made by the machine when operating and applied for the seven-day return policy to the online store. The store owner Tan turned down the request claiming the machine had no quality issue and had been unpacked, which would impact resale. After Song’s subsequent multiple requests to return it, Tan finally agreed. However, after Tan received the machine, Tan refused to refund Song claiming the testing impacted the resale of the machine, and delivered the machine back to Song.

The plaintiff Song claimed that the commodity involved was not brand new when he bought it. He had not caused the scratches and scuffs on the machine, and had only done a test run of the machine for one minute without putting anything in it. The defendant had labeled the machine as returnable within seven days of receipt and had agreed at first to accept the return. The plaintiff therefore requested the court to support its claim of return and a refund with compensation for losses incurred.

According to the defendant Tan, when Tan received the machine from Song, Tan found it had scratches and scuffs which would severely impact its resale, and therefore requested the court to reject all the plaintiff’s claims.

After trial, the BIC concluded that:

The plaintiff bought and paid for the commodity at the defendant's online store. The intents of both parties were true. The form and content of the contract didn’t violate any mandatory provisions of laws and administrative regulations. Therefore, an online sales contract between the two parties had been established and both parties should fulfill their obligations accordingly.

In this case, the commodity involved was labeled as "95 percent new" and "a sample machine". Its sales page clearly said it was applicable to the seven-day return and exchange policy, meanwhile the store didn’t inform the consumer otherwise. Therefore, the commodity falls into the scope of the seven-day return and exchange policy. According to law, as consumers must unpack a commodity out of testing necessity and such act does not affect its intactness, e-commerce operators cannot exclude it from the return policy simply because it had been unpacked.

In this case, the plaintiff conducted a necessary test of the machine. As for the scratches and scuffs, the machine was not brand new, and the defendant did not submit evidence that they were caused by the plaintiff. Nor did the defendant submit adequate evidence that the returned commodity had usage marks that were beyond a reasonable range.

Details of the judgment:

Based on the above considerations, the BIC supported the plaintiff's request to return the commodity and receive a full refund.

Tips from the judge:

The principle of fairness should be followed in fulfilling contracted obligations. One difference from the traditional shopping way is that online shoppers can only rely on the graphic introductions of commodities to make shopping decisions. The return and exchange policy is thus issued to protect consumers’ rights and interests. On the other hand, when the commodities have no quality issues, consumers need to make sure they are intact when they return them in order not to impact their resale.

If the commodity is intact, the seller generally cannot deny the consumer's request of returning it within seven days of receipt, by claiming it is "unpacked" or "tested" or "used". However, if the usage was beyond testing the quality and functions of the commodity, and the commodity is left with obvious usage marks which are hard to eliminate or its value is obviously depreciated with a reasonable person standard, then the commodity does not qualify for the seven-day return and exchange policy.