Online shopping legal disputes rose 42% in 2017, according to data released by the Supreme People’s Court. Beijing residents were the most likely to take their case to court, Alibaba platforms were involved in 18% of cases and 18-29 year olds made up almost half of all plaintiffs (in Chinese).

The data covers disputes from all levels of court across the country between January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2017. In 2015, 2,422 cases were brought, rising 285% to 9,328 cases in 2016 and another 41.93% in 2017 to around 13,200 cases.

The organization with the most disputes brought to court was Alibaba with its Tmall and Taobao platforms. 17.92% of cases were brought against sellers on these sites. Of those bringing cases, 99.2% were individuals and 84.6% of defendants were individuals.

Last June Zhejiang Province, home of Alibaba, established the Hangzhou Court of the Internet, thought to be the first in the world, to help tackle rising numbers of cases emerging from the online world, such as e-commerce disputes.

Over the three years, the provinces with the most cases were Guangdong with 5,360, Beijing with 3,886, Jiangsu with 3,556 and Zhejiang with 2,497. Adjusted for number of cases per 10,000 residents, Beijing leaps ahead to 2.30 cases per 10,000, almost three times as many as the next most litigious province, Jiangsu with 0.78 then Shanghai at 0.73 per 10,000. The rations are broadly in line with internet penetration in the country.

8,881 of the plaintiffs were between 18 and 29 years old, making up 47.79%. 20-29 year olds make up 30.3% of internet users in China, suggesting this age group is a little more ready to bring legal cases about online shopping issues.

The data also reveals that almost 8% of lawsuits are dismissed, 53.35% are withdrawn, judgements are reached for 27.05% of cases and 5.9% of cases ended in mediation.

Frank Hersey is a Beijing-based tech reporter who's been coming to China since 2001. He tries to go beyond the headlines to explain the context and impact of developments in China's tech sector. Get in...

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