4 Things You Have to Know on How to File a Dispute on Alibaba
Alibaba provides Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) through its Complaint Center. It has built a complex dispute resolution. If you want to resolve disputes through Alibaba, you need to know what role Alibaba will play and what position it will take.
Alibaba provides Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) through its Complaint Center.
If you want to resolve disputes through Alibaba, you may encounter the following four stages: online mediation, making decisions, enforcing decisions, and raising objections to decisions.
(1) The buyer and the seller may apply for Alibaba to submit a dispute to mediation
In case of any dispute arising from the online cross-border transactions conducted through Alibaba by the buyer and the seller, either party may apply for Alibaba to provide online dispute mediation services, and Alibaba will act as a mediator and make a decision therefor.
Alibaba will mediate the dispute according to Alibaba.com Transaction Dispute Rules.
(2) What decisions can Alibaba make in mediation?
Alibaba can, at its sole discretion, make the following decisions:
(1) Payment of liquidated damages or compensation for actual losses. (Articles 24, 30, 35, 36 and 49 of Transaction Dispute Rules)
(2) Refund, partial refund, return & refund. (Articles 31, 32, 40, 41, 46, 48, 55 and 56 of (1) Payment of liquidated damages or compensation for actual losses. (Articles 24, 30, 35, 36 and 49 of Transaction Dispute Rules)
(3) How are Alibaba’s mediation decisions enforced?
If the buyer and the seller accept the Trade Assurance Services provided by Alibaba, Alibaba can make an advance refund to the buyer on behalf of the seller in case of the seller’s breach of contract and refund. The advance payment is limited to the guarantee amount obtained by the seller from Alibaba. (Article 2.4, Part A of Trade Assurance Services Rules)
(4) What should you do if you are dissatisfied with Alibaba’s mediation decision?
There are two ways:
Approach A: you can claim against Alibaba, requesting it to make a correct mediation decision and undertake the refund obligation in advance. If so, you will need to apply to the Hong Kong International Arbitration Center for arbitration. (Article 10.5 of the Transaction Services Agreement)
Approach B: you can request the counterparty to fulfill obligations according to the transaction contract without involving Alibaba. If so, you need to know the dispute resolution method agreed in your transaction contract, which may usually be litigation in Chinese courts or arbitration.
2. System of Rules
Alibaba has built a complex dispute resolution system. If you want to resolve disputes through Alibaba, you need to understand these rules in the system.
Alibaba’s dispute resolution system consists of the following rules:
This is Alibaba’s general rules for managing its online trading platform. According to the Transaction Services Agreement, Alibaba shall have full rights and powers to handle any dispute between the buyer and the seller (Article 2.8). If either party is dissatisfied with Alibaba’s dispute resolution result, it may submit the dispute to the Hong Kong International Arbitration Center for arbitration (Article 10).
The Agreement on Use of Complaint Center provides for how the buyer and the seller can participate in Alibaba’s dispute resolution through the Complaint Center, one of Alibaba’s online systems.
Type A: Procedural Rules.
It concerns how users apply to Alibaba for dispute resolution (Chapter 3), how buyers and sellers provide evidence to Alibaba (Chapter 4), and how Alibaba’s mediation procedures terminate (Chapter 11).
Type B: Substantive Rules.
It concerns how Alibaba determines the obligations and liabilities for breach of buyers and sellers in terms of shipping, receipt, inspection, return and exchange, customs clearance, and product quality.
These Rules mainly stipulate that if sellers need to refund buyers under specific circumstances, Alibaba can advance the refund to buyers on behalf of sellers. (Article 2.4)
3. How to Preserve Evidence During Correspondences
In order to solve your disputes on Alibaba, please save your correspondences in Alibaba’s official chat tool, Alibaba Complaint Center and emails. Such correspondences will later serve as important evidence.
After signing the contract or order, the buyer and the seller will have a lot of correspondence, including supplementing the contract details, changing the contract terms, feeding back the contract performance, raising objections, and negotiating.
You should always save the correspondences with the other party in Alibaba’s official chat tool and your emails.
If you complain to Alibaba and submit your dispute to mediation, then you need the content in Alibaba’s official chat tool.
If you resort to court or arbitration for dispute resolution, then you need the content in your emails.
(1) Correspondences in Alibaba’s official chat tool.
According to Article 22 of Alibaba.com Transaction Dispute Rules:
The correspondences between the Buyer and the Seller via the Alibaba.com’ official chat tool will serve as the basis for dispute resolution, and correspondence between the parties through other means of communication (including but not limited to offline written contracts, telephone calls, e-mails, and third-party instant chat tools) will not be the basis for the dispute resolution, unless both the Buyer and the Seller agree that such correspondence is authentic and valid.
This means that if you want to resolve your dispute through Alibaba, only the correspondences saved in Alibaba’s official chat tool can be used as evidence.
(2) Correspondences in Complaint Center
Alibaba’s dispute resolution platform is Complaint Center.
According to Article 6.1 of the Agreement on Use of Complaint Center:
After the termination of use, Alibaba has no obligation to keep any complaint-related information after the termination of use of the System. Alibaba has the right to delete the information after a reasonable period of time.
This means that even if you are dissatisfied with Alibaba’s complaint handling decision in the future, you may not get the data about the complaint. This may prevent you from resorting to court or arbitration.
If you are dissatisfied with the result of Alibaba’s dispute resolution, you may resort to court or arbitration.
You can sue Alibaba, but you may not rely on Alibaba to save the content in its chat tool or Complaint Center.
In this case, if you have confirmed something in your emails with the counterparty, then these emails are admissible as evidence.
Therefore, you need to confirm with your counterparty by email regularly, so that you can retain some evidence in your hand if needed.
4. Alibaba’s Role and Its Impartiality
If you want to resolve disputes through Alibaba, you need to know what role Alibaba will play and what position it will take.
Alibaba provides dispute resolution services for both buyers and sellers. In this dispute resolution system, Alibaba plays two roles in fact: service provider and judge.
(1) Role 1: Service Provider
Although Alibaba provides trading platform services to both buyers and sellers, it obtains its service revenue mainly from sellers. In fact, Alibaba’s business model is to attract more buyers and then provide buyers to sellers, so as to earn its service fee therefrom.
In this sense, Alibaba mainly serves sellers, providing buyers as “products” to sellers.
Therefore, Alibaba won’t be too harsh on sellers, but only wants to guide them to fulfill the contract honestly.
(2) Role 2: Judge
At the same time, Alibaba is also the judge making decisions in Online Dispute Resolution between buyers and sellers. Alibaba will determine the breaching party and pertinent obligations impartially based on the evidence and facts provided by both parties.
This requires Alibaba not to favor either party to the transaction.
Apparently, there are some conflicts between the two roles. As a service provider, Alibaba tends to favor its paying customers, i.e., the sellers; as a judge, it can’t favor either side.
In this situation, Alibaba would 1) render its decision impartially if clear facts and conclusive evidence are available, and 2) favor sellers if it is difficult to determine the liabilities between buyers and sellers due to the lack of clear facts and conclusive evidence.
Therefore, if buyers want to make effective use of Alibaba’s online mediation system, they should sign clear sales contracts with sellers and preserve evidence properly.
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