Legal disputes rise with China's e-commerce boom

China's booming e-commerce sector has led to a rising number of disputes, with market regulators handling nearly 1.7 million complaints related to online shopping in 2018, up 126 percent from the previous year, according to the State Administration for Market Regulation.

Last year, the total volume of online transactions reached 31.6 trillion yuan ($4.7 trillion), up 8.5 percent year-on-year, the administration said on Thursday.

The number of complaints against online businesses also rose in tandem with rapid e-commerce growth, reaching 1.68 million last year, compared to about 685,000 in 2017 and 240,000 in 2016.

The administration said most disputes stem from false advertising, counterfeits or low-quality merchandise, and sellers' failure to abide by contracts.

The administration released the findings on its website on Thursday, ahead of World Consumer Rights Day, which falls on March 15 each year. In total, market watchdogs across the country received 11.2 million complaints, reports and consultations.

Online marketplaces are under increased scrutiny after China's top market regulator launched an online portal in early 2017 allowing consumers to voice their grievances and report illegal practices on a 24-hour basis.

The administration said an expanding number of shoppers have turned to the online platform to seek help as the National Internet Platform of Consumer Dispute Resolution, or, saw 1.26 million new accounts last year. It also handled 1.67 million complaints or reports and helped recover financial losses worth 400 million yuan for Chinese buyers.

During a news conference held on Monday on the sidelines of the ongoing two sessions, Zhang Mao, minister of the administration, said online shopping has emerged as a convenient tool for young consumers in recent years, but violations in terms of advertising, product quality and delivery services also are prevalent within the sector.

The administration will deploy new technologies, including big data and cloud computing, to tighten supervision over the online market, he said, adding that both online and offline shopping are subject to equal oversight and penalties.