Taobao, JD.com to Allow Refunds Without Returns
E-commerce giants Taobao and JD.com are allowing buyers to get refunds without returning their purchases, adopting the controversial flagship policy of rival Pinduoduo that has resulted in vendor boycotts and lawsuits.
Alibaba-owned Taobao’s new policy, in effect since Tuesday, allows refund requests if delivery time exceeds what was agreed or products are sent without the buyer’s consent. Buyers may also apply for refunds if they reject a product after it is delivered.
The move comes days after a leadership change at Taobao saw Wu Yongming, CEO of Alibaba Group and Alibaba Cloud, took the helm as the platform’s new CEO.
JD.com, best known for selling electronic products, will expand its “refund-without-return” policy to all vendors on the platform starting Friday. The platform said it will decide whether to approve refunds based on buyers’ “transaction habits” in cases where a dispute between a buyer and vendor is unresolved. A refund without return will also be permitted if there are found to be “serious” quality issues with a product.
Previously, buyers on the two platforms that requested refunds on products purchased without delivery insurance, provided by the platforms, would have to pay for any delivery costs incurred to return the products. Delivery insurance is calculated based on the distance of the delivery and the weight of the package.
However, vendors may deduct the refund amount or refuse refunds entirely if products are returned without the original packaging or are damaged.
Rival Pinduoduo has had such policies in place since 2021, which has cultivated its “customer first” brand image along with its group buying discounts and low prices. The company has seen rapid growth since launching in 2015, surpassing Alibaba to become China’s most valuable e-commerce company for the first time in late November.
However, Pinduoduo’s policies have also left many vendors disgruntled. In March, vendors on the platform began bombarding flagship stores with refund requests in protest of the policy, with some bringing legal action against buyers who they accuse of exploiting the loose refund policies to get items for free.
Pinduoduo has defended the policy by saying that it only allows refunds without returns if vendors are unresponsive to complaints, adding that it analyzes refund requests based on various criteria, including the buyer’s track record.
Taobao has said that it will consider both the buyer and vendor’s transaction histories when processing refund without return requests, as well as other buyers’ reviews and complaints related to the product. Lin Bin, a customer service supervisor at Taobao, told Sixth Tone on Thursday that he has yet to receive details about the new policies from management.
The policy changes have been much discussed online, with over 580 million views in the past three days on microblogging platform Weibo.
While many say the move is a boon for consumer protection, others have voiced concerns about the overall impact on the e-commerce market.
“This ultimately disadvantages high-quality and trustworthy customers because it fosters a large number of dishonest customers who seek freebies. Then vendors have to increase prices or reduce product quality,” one top comment read.
Editor: Vincent Chow.
(Header image: VCG)