As e-commerce flourishes in both mainland China and Hong Kong, disputes related to online consumption have correspondingly increased. In this article, we present a comparative analysis of legal requirements concerning standard terms adopted by e-commerce platforms in both jurisdictions, including recommendations for cross-border e-commerce platform operators.
LATEST IN MAINLAND CHINA
Requirements relating to standard terms can be found in the E-Commerce Law, the Civil Code and other relevant laws and regulations. On 13 January 2022, the Beijing No. 4 Intermediate People’s Court announced “Ten Typical Cases of Internet-related Civil and Commercial Trials” and, among these, half related to issues concerning standard contractual terms adopted by e-commerce platforms.
On 15 February 2022, the Supreme People’s Court announced the Provisions on Several Issues Concerning the Application of Law in the Trial of Online Consumer Disputes (I), indicating further circumstances where certain standard-form contractual terms provided by e-commerce operators would be rendered void and/or unenforceable.
The provisions also make detailed stipulations concerning obligations of e-commerce operators over return of goods without reasons, proprietary businesses, platform payments, second-hand goods transactions, sales through live-streaming, fabricated transaction contracts, and online catering platforms.
HONG KONG REGULATION
Unlike mainland China, there are no specific legal provisions in Hong Kong targeting standard terms of e-commerce activities. In general, standard terms and conditions are regulated by the Control of Exemption Clauses Ordinance (Cap. 71) and the Unconscionable Contracts Ordinance (Cap. 458).
The Hong Kong Court of Appeal recently decided that some standard exemption clauses in investment service contracts signed between a bank and its clients were neither fair nor reasonable. Giving full effect to such clauses being un-conscionable, the court ruled they could not exempt or limit liability, and rejected the bank’s appeal.