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The Supreme Court introduces new regulations for disputes concerning food and drugs

An "upgrade" for consumer protection

Originally by: Yang Weihan and Chen Fei
First published: 2014 -01-09 18:50:39

In the afternoon of January 9, the Supreme People's Court issued the "Regulations on Certain Issues Arising from Laws Applicable to Trials of Disputes Related to Food and Drug Issues". This judicial interpretation aims at increasing efforts for consumer protection and unifies the scale of justice administered for food and drug disputes. A total of 18 judicial interpretations will be effectively implemented beginning March 15, 2014.

Based on our understanding, in recent years, cases involving food and drug disputes amongst civil trials at courts nationwide have become the type that raises high concerns and is quite extensive in society. These cases shown before the court have a slight upward trend. Statistics from the Supreme People's Court shows that from 2010 to 2012, the Court accepted a total of 13,216 civil disputes related to food and drugs, which accounts for 6% of cases that involve all consumer rights disputes. This includes 4,513 cases (an increase of 9.59%) opened in 2011, and 4,623 cases (an increase of 2.44%) opened in 2012.

“These acts cause consumers serious harm in terms of personal and property safety, and urgently require more efforts to impose sanctions that will effectively curb behaviors in the manufacturing and sale of fake and defected food and drugs. These acts may also legally trigger administrative, criminal, and civil liabilities.” Sun Jungong, the spokesman of the Supreme People's Court, stated, "Although administrative and criminal penalties for wrongdoers can have a positive effect, it is not a substitute for civil cases as civil lawsuits are increasingly being filed to protect consumers' rights.”

Judicial interpretation of many problems arising from cases in practice, such as whether claims can be filed for gift products that failed inspection for its quality, what liabilities celebrities will assume due to their endorsements for false advertising, how online trading platforms bear responsibility for online shopping losses, and how to recognize "unfair clauses" were clearly defined.

Wang Liming, Vice-President of Renmin University of China, believes that judicial interpretations make existing laws and regulations more stringent while providing more comprehensive and stricter protection for the interests of consumers. It has been inclined to protect consumer rights, and provides specific regulations for such areas as rules to determine civil liabilities, and the subject scope and formats of infringement. In addition, consumer victims are provided with more convenient and effective relief channels.

A clear judicial interpretation of "knowing it's fake but continuing to buy it" does not affect advocacy for consumers' rights. According to the provisions, in the event that buyers involved in the dispute cases, due to the quality of food and drugs, claim rights from manufacturers and distributors, and these manufacturers and distributors defend themselves by using the excuse that buyers were aware of the existence of the quality problems of such food and drugs, the People’s Court will not support such cases.

A judicial interpretation to curb food certification agencies from false certification requires that the People's Court will support consumers' claim for the joint liabilities due to the harm against the consumers as food certification bodies deliberately provide false certification, and the People’s Court will support consumers’ request to hold food certification bodies liable for untrue certification that cause harm against the consumers due to their negligence.

Source: Xinhua Website
Senior Editor: Zhou Lihang

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