Chinese travel firms restructure apps to comply with new e-commerce law

1 min read
Three different purchasing options (left) and Ctrip’s extra RMB 40 package (right). (Image credit: Ctrip)

Popular third-party travel apps including Ctrip and Tuniu have restructured their formats to make purchases more transparent, as the companies work to comply with China’s new E-commerce Law, reports Chinese News Service.

The law, enacted Jan. 1, is an attempt to “maintain market order” and includes a slew of new protections for consumers. But it doesn’t just prohibit fake products and reviews on shopping sites like Taobao. The new law’s effects are now being felt by online customers booking train tickets ahead of the world’s largest annual human migration, the Chinese New Year travel rush.

The process of buying train tickets had formerly included certain add-on features by default, requiring thrifty buyers to de-select unwanted additions before booking.

Now, Ctrip now offers three “channels” through which customers can choose their preferred package in advance, with pricing to suit. While the first option is a basic ticket through China Railway’s official platform 12306, the other two offer additional services for RMB 40 (around $6) and up.

The second option, for example, gives perks such as 24/7 booking services, preferential customer service, and speedier returns or changes. The app also claims that compared to “normal” booking through 12306, customers will receive their tickets more quickly.

The changes to Ctrip’s services fall in line with the new e-commerce law, which states that tie-in goods and services must be prominently displayed, and cannot be included as default add-ons to purchases.

A Ctrip representative told TechNode that the company would “strictly abide by the E-commerce Law’s relevant provisions, enacting stricter supervision over products on the platform and safeguarding consumers’ right to know, freely choose, and make fair transactions.”

The draft law was first reviewed in December 2016. It was later deliberated in October 2017 and June 2018 and came into effect earlier this month.

The law has had wide-ranging effects, holding companies to account for the goods sold on their platforms. In December, for instance, social e-commerce platform Pinduoduo imposed stricter rules on its merchants in a bid to weed out fake goods. Ahead of Jan. 1, it vowed to put merchants with bad evaluations onto a watchlist for violations of the rules.