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Xinhua Insight: E-courts promise online justice for Chinese shoppers

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  HANGZHOU, Dec. 11 (Xinhua) -- As Chinese increasingly turn to the Internet for shopping, it's appropriate that many lawsuits over their purchases are now being handled entirely online.

  Since August, some judiciaries have been offering "e-courts" to handle cases concerning disputes over e-shopping, copyright and online financial services. All the materials are filed online, and the courtroom is replaced by a three-way video conference.

  While litigation fees are the same as in a conventional case, the process is quicker, and plaintiffs and defendants don't have to travel.

  E-courts have been busy since the massive buying spree of Singles' Day, on Nov. 11, and they are expecting another peak after China's second-biggest online shopping festival on Dec. 12, or "Double 12."

  MARKET DEMAND

  In Hangzhou, home to online shopping giant Alibaba, e-courts are available in four jurisdictions. The Xihu, Binjiang and Yuhang district courts respectively handle online trade disputes, copyright lawsuits and online financial services disputes. Hangzhou intermediate court handles appeals of these cases.

  "E-courts came about as individual e-commerce firms and the industry as a whole called for more appropriate legal services," said Luo Xin, head of Yuhang district court.

  China has more than 350 million online shoppers. The Yuhang court received 1,229 e-commerce lawsuits in the first nine months of 2015, nearly quadruple the number in the same period of 2014.

  In one case, the court mediated compensation for someone suing a cake seller for fraud and false advertising. The plaintiff, who lives in Henan Province, bought some mooncakes on Alibaba's Tmall.com. The seller claimed the cake contained natural pine nuts, which they did not.

  The buyer contacted the district court in Yuhang and was told that his case could be tried online. Henan is about 1,000 km from both the first defendant, a Shanghai-based company, and the second, Tmall in Hangzhou.

  "An e-court saves time and money. It is as convenient as e-shopping, as all you have to do is to gather your data and click the buttons," said Luo Xin.

  Gao Qi, head of the higher court in Zhejiang Province, said e-trials have standardized judicial practice and provided transparency. "E-courts better connect the plaintiff, defendant and the court."

  By the end of November, Zhejiang's e-courts had received 813 cases. Mediators helped settle 196 of them without going to trial, while 231 were dismissed for lack of evidence. Rulings were made in 15 cases, and the rest are still being processed.

  FOLLOW THE CLUES

  Information entered by a plaintiff at yuncourt.com is reviewed by Zhejiang court staff who inform the defendant by text message if they decide there is a case to answer.

  Zhang Zheng, a judge at the Hangzhou intermediate court, said the trail of data left by online shopping makes it easy for an e-court to obtain evidence.

  "Data such as orders, chat records, logistics information and online loan contracts can be taken from the system," Zhang said.

  Just as online shopping is compulsive because it is so easy, e-courts could tempt consumers to pursue legal action simply because they can, inundating vendors with frivolous lawsuits. For this reason, there are plenty of checks and balances in place.

  Mediators are involved in all cases. Right up to a ruling being made, plaintiffs can click an "I want to drop the lawsuit" button.

  "If people want to change their mind, they can do it anytime," said Zhang. "The ultimate goal is to make online trading fairer, advocate honest dealing and reduce disputes."

  E-COURTS ON TRIAL

  Legal officials liaising with e-shopping malls is nothing new. Alibaba has auctioned off seized items for thousands of courts. Nevertheless, the system is not without its teething troubles.

  "When we started, the text messages or emails sent to defendants were mistaken for spam," said Cheng Wenjuan, a judge with the Yuhang court.

  The court has changed the wording to make this communication sound more credible and it has asked online shopping malls to sanction traders who do not respond to summons.

  Meanwhile, more mediators are needed. Until e-courts have new personnel, some are limiting themselves to simple small-sum lawsuits, with more complicated cases passed on to a conventional court.

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  Xinhuanet

  Xinhua Insight: E-courts promise online justice for Chinese shoppers

  English.news.cn 2015-12-11 21:48:33

  HANGZHOU, Dec. 11 (Xinhua) -- As Chinese increasingly turn to the Internet for shopping, it's appropriate that many lawsuits over their purchases are now being handled entirely online.

  Since August, some judiciaries have been offering "e-courts" to handle cases concerning disputes over e-shopping, copyright and online financial services. All the materials are filed online, and the courtroom is replaced by a three-way video conference.

  While litigation fees are the same as in a conventional case, the process is quicker, and plaintiffs and defendants don't have to travel.

  E-courts have been busy since the massive buying spree of Singles' Day, on Nov. 11, and they are expecting another peak after China's second-biggest online shopping festival on Dec. 12, or "Double 12."

  MARKET DEMAND

  In Hangzhou, home to online shopping giant Alibaba, e-courts are available in four jurisdictions. The Xihu, Binjiang and Yuhang district courts respectively handle online trade disputes, copyright lawsuits and online financial services disputes. Hangzhou intermediate court handles appeals of these cases.

  "E-courts came about as individual e-commerce firms and the industry as a whole called for more appropriate legal services," said Luo Xin, head of Yuhang district court.

  China has more than 350 million online shoppers. The Yuhang court received 1,229 e-commerce lawsuits in the first nine months of 2015, nearly quadruple the number in the same period of 2014.

  In one case, the court mediated compensation for someone suing a cake seller for fraud and false advertising. The plaintiff, who lives in Henan Province, bought some mooncakes on Alibaba's Tmall.com. The seller claimed the cake contained natural pine nuts, which they did not.

  The buyer contacted the district court in Yuhang and was told that his case could be tried online. Henan is about 1,000 km from both the first defendant, a Shanghai-based company, and the second, Tmall in Hangzhou.

  "An e-court saves time and money. It is as convenient as e-shopping, as all you have to do is to gather your data and click the buttons," said Luo Xin.

  Gao Qi, head of the higher court in Zhejiang Province, said e-trials have standardized judicial practice and provided transparency. "E-courts better connect the plaintiff, defendant and the court."

  By the end of November, Zhejiang's e-courts had received 813 cases. Mediators helped settle 196 of them without going to trial, while 231 were dismissed for lack of evidence. Rulings were made in 15 cases, and the rest are still being processed.

  FOLLOW THE CLUES

  Information entered by a plaintiff at yuncourt.com is reviewed by Zhejiang court staff who inform the defendant by text message if they decide there is a case to answer.

  Zhang Zheng, a judge at the Hangzhou intermediate court, said the trail of data left by online shopping makes it easy for an e-court to obtain evidence.

  "Data such as orders, chat records, logistics information and online loan contracts can be taken from the system," Zhang said.

  Just as online shopping is compulsive because it is so easy, e-courts could tempt consumers to pursue legal action simply because they can, inundating vendors with frivolous lawsuits. For this reason, there are plenty of checks and balances in place.

  Mediators are involved in all cases. Right up to a ruling being made, plaintiffs can click an "I want to drop the lawsuit" button.

  "If people want to change their mind, they can do it anytime," said Zhang. "The ultimate goal is to make online trading fairer, advocate honest dealing and reduce disputes."

  E-COURTS ON TRIAL

  Legal officials liaising with e-shopping malls is nothing new. Alibaba has auctioned off seized items for thousands of courts. Nevertheless, the system is not without its teething troubles.

  "When we started, the text messages or emails sent to defendants were mistaken for spam," said Cheng Wenjuan, a judge with the Yuhang court.

  The court has changed the wording to make this communication sound more credible and it has asked online shopping malls to sanction traders who do not respond to summons.

  Meanwhile, more mediators are needed. Until e-courts have new personnel, some are limiting themselves to simple small-sum lawsuits, with more complicated cases passed on to a conventional court.

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