Courting the internet

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Hangzhou Internet Court is the first of its kind in China, and Sara Yu, deputy general counsel of Alibaba Group, was instrumental in setting it up. We sought her views on the institution.

China Business Law Journal: What is the background of the establishment of Hangzhou Internet Court, and what role did Alibaba play in it?

Hangzhou
Sara Yu

Sara Yu: In March 2015, we piloted the “E-commerce Online Court” with Zhejiang High People’s Court to resolve disputes in the field of e-commerce and to facilitate litigation “as convenient as online shopping”. In online dispute cases, the evidence is often electronic data. Once the litigation is involved, the online data must first be notarized, and then sent to the court for an offline hearing. After the case is over, we need to summarize the information in a case file and enter it into our system.

There are several problems here: (1) high cost. It involves notary fees, costs for employing persons to enter data, etc.; (2) low efficiency and low data utilization; and (3) litigation outside the home region. In online shopping, buyers and sellers are usually in different places. According to the principle of litigation jurisdiction that “the plaintiff accommodates to the defendant”, litigation outside the home region is very common, and very inconvenient.

In 2017, two years after the establishment of the online court, Zhejiang High People’s Court applied for the establishment of an internet court in view of the success of the pilot. As a result, the original “E-commerce Online Court” was upgraded to Hangzhou Internet Court.

CBLJ: When the parties have disputes on the Taobao platform, can they choose a solution outside the internet court?

Sara Yu: When a dispute occurs, users have multiple options to resolve it. For example, they can choose to complain directly to Taobao; they can also choose to use Alibaba’s “mass review mechanism” to resolve disputes over consumer rights protection; they can also call the government service hotline for administrative complaints. Furthermore, users can choose other courts than the internet court to file a lawsuit. In addition to Hangzhou, Beijing and Guangzhou each have an internet court. It can be said that the user’s choice is diverse.

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