Zhang Dejiang, chairman of China's National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, presides over the first plenary meeting of the fifth session of the 12th NPC Standing Committee in Beijing, capital of China, Oct. 21, 2013. (Xinhua/Ding Lin)
BEIJING, Oct. 21 (Xinhua) -- A bill to revise the law on consumer rights and interests, tabled for a third reading on Monday, promises higher compensation for consumer loss.
The bill was submitted to the bimonthly session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, which runs from Monday to Friday.
Lawmakers read the bill twice in April and August of this year and are likely to vote on it at this week's session.
The current version contains an article endorsing higher compensation for consumers who die or suffer serious health problems due to faulty products knowingly sold by dealers.
Dealers shall not only compensate consumers for economic and psychological losses but also pay punitive damages up to a maximum of twice the amount of the loss, according to the bill. Offenders will also be prosecuted.
The bill bans dealers from forcing consumers to buy or imposing unfair and unreasonable conditions, and further clarifies regulations on e-commerce, protecting the rights of both consumers and businesses.
Though the bill allows e-shoppers to unconditionally return merchandise for refunds within seven days of a transaction, it also requires them to pay logistics costs.
The new draft expands the list of products not suitable for unconditional returns and refunds. Digital products sold via downloads have been added to the list, which already includes audio-visual products with the packaging removed, bespoke products, fresh and perishable goods, magazines, newspapers and software.
Consumers can seek compensation from online trading platforms if the platforms fail to provide valid contact details for vendors using their networks. After compensating consumers, online trading platforms are entitled to claim compensation from vendors.
The consumer rights law has not been revised since it was enacted in 1993, but the way people shop and ideas of consumption have changed dramatically.
At panel discussions on Monday afternoon, most lawmakers agreed that the bill has addressed the latest and most important problems in this aspect, such as e-shopping, and focused on protecting the rights of consumers, tightening the liabilities of business and improving supervision.
"The bill has been well established and should be ready for a vote after this round of deliberation," said Shen Chunyao, member of the NPC Standing Committee.
However, some lawmakers pointed out weaknesses of the current version.
The bill introduces public interest litigation into cases involving collective interests of consumers but regulates that only the China Consumers' Association (CCA) and its provincial branches can initiate the litigation.
Han Xiaowu, member of the NPC Standing Committee, argued that more organizations representing consumers should be allowed in public interest litigation cases.
"In real life, CCA does not have enough resources to represent all cases," Han said. "It will not meet consumers' needs or help curb malpractice."
The law could lay out certain qualifications for plaintiff organizations instead of simply appointing one, he said.
Also, Yang Zhen, another NPC Standing Committee member, suggested that, since most consumers will turn to the CCA for help, the law should regulate how quickly the CCA should respond.
Some lawmakers also called for more public resources for the CCA, which is mainly sponsored by the government.
Other bills were also submitted to the bi-monthly session of the NPC Standing Committee, presided over by Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the NPC Standing Committee. Zhang also attended the panel discussion.
On Monday, lawmakers also reviewed a draft amendment to the environmental protection law and a report on the implementation of meteorological law.