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Netizens go to court over 1 yuan trips

By Wang Xiaodong (China Daily)

10:50, March 30, 2012

Angry customers have gone to court seeking redress against one of China's biggest Internet retailers after the company failed to provide sightseeing trips for 1 yuan (16 cents).

"We have submitted the case to Shanghai Jinshan District People's Court on behalf of dozens of customers demanding that 360buy, one of China's largest online traders, honor its contract and offer compensation," said Chen Cheng, a lawyer with Shanghai-based Co-career Law Firm, on Wednesday.

Disputes started when 360buy advertised several sightseeing packages, including one to Shaoxing, a historic city in East China's Zhejiang province, at a cost of 1 yuan per customer on March 19.

The Shaoxing trip included breakfast, a one-night stay in a hotel and entrance fees for some scenic spots, according to the website.

About 1,700 people had purchased that trip, and 10,412 had ordered a 1 yuan trip to a scenic spot in Mianyang, Sichuan province.

However, customers found the trips were canceled and their money returned to their accounts.

360buy said that the webpage containing the promotion was only a "test page", and was not meant to be displayed on the website. The company apologized for the "technical failure".

Tian Xiaoci, a public relations manager with 360buy , said the page with the promotion appeared due to mistakes made by technical personnel. She said the company is communicating with the customers involved.

But lawyer Chen did not accept the explanation. "The business should honor its contract once the customers have paid for the product," he said.

Sun Xiaoxiang, a Shanghai resident, placed 16 orders on the website at 1 yuan each on March 19 , as he was planning to go to Shaoxing for sightseeing with friends."I was furious after I saw 'refund applied' on the website, when I did not apply for a refund."

According to media reports, 360buy agreed to offer a 20 yuan voucher for every customer in compensation.

"I have spent a lot of time and money because I phoned the company repeatedly, so I'm not accepting the voucher, which I could only use at its online store," said a customer surnamed Chen who also ordered the Shaoxing trip.

Shanghai Lvmama, an online tourist agency, was also named in the court action as the supplier of the excursion trips offered by 360buy , Chen, the lawyer, said.

A public relations spokesperson for the Joyu Group, the parent company of Shanghai Lvmama, denied this.

E-commerce has been developing rapidly in China in recent years. According to a report by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology on Tuesday, the total volume of electronic business in China will reach 18 trillion yuan in 2015, four times the current level.

Policies and regulations still lag behind the development of this new sector, said Mo Daiqing, analyst with the China E-commerce Research Center.

"Internet retailers should improve management and intensify training for their personnel. But to address the root cause of the problems in the e-commerce industry, it is necessary to establish laws to regulate this sector," Mo said.

According to a guideline issued by the Ministry of Commerce last year, comprehensive laws and a national information database for e-commerce credit are expected to be set up in China by 2015.

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