In China, E-Commerce a Legal Grey Area

In China, E-Commerce a Legal Grey Area

Sijia Jiang of the South China Morning Post reports that with no law specifically governing e-commerce, the sale of black and grey-market goods is flourishing on China’s online shopping sites:

Shopping websites traditionally relied on technology to flag illegal transactions, but it was a cat-and-mouse game, as shady sellers responded with innovative work-arounds, said Zhang Yanlai, an expert at the Brighteous Law Firm based in Hangzhou.

“Ten years ago, you might have got away with bluntly describing your item as ‘heroin’. Then the hosting websites learned to screen the word. Then people used ‘diacetylmorphine’ or ‘C21H23NO5’, the chemical name. Websites learned that too,” Zhang said.

“Now it is difficult to put anything obviously illegal out there, especially on established platforms like Taobao,” Zhang said, referring to China’s most popular online shopping website, owned by the Alibaba Group.

He said illegal goods sold online fell into three rough categories: prohibited items such as drugs and weapons, unlicensed goods such as tobacco and medicine, and counterfeit goods. [Source]

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