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Jet Zhisong Deng, Devin Du Ning, Feb 11, 2014
Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the Law on the Protection of Consumer Rights and Interests-which was promulgated in 1993 and took effect in 1994-was newly revised in 2013. The revisions will take effect from March 15, 2014. Compared to the 1993 Consumer Protection Law, the New Consumer Protection Law reflects the huge change in China’s consumption patterns. The revisions aim at meeting the requirements of new trends in consumer protection.
In this revision, a large number of rules were amended or added. Substantial provisions involving the protection of personal information, the right to return goods bought online, and remedies against unfair contractual clauses have won extensive public praise. Procedural provisions related to mechanisms such as “public interest litigation,” the reversal of the burden of proof, and punitive damages have also grabbed headlines, but are more controversial. To a great extent, these mechanisms differ from the existing general framework for civil litigation.
Similar to the United States, in China companies have begun using the Anti-Monopoly Law to resolve commercial disputes. This trend has accelerated since the entry into force of the Provisions on Several Issues concerning the Application of the Law in the Trial of Civil Dispute Cases Arising from Monopolistic Conduct (by the Supreme People’s Court on June 1, 2011. However, there are no procedural stimulations such as class actions and triple damages as in the United States, and private enforcement of antitrust law in China has not been very active so far.
This article will place particular emphasis on the procedural provisions newly revised for consumer protection, since they not only have a great impact on civil litigation in relation to consumer protection, but also on private antitrust enforcement.