To better regulate the flourishing e-commerce market, China's first e-commerce law takes effect on Tuesday, aiming at better protecting consumers' interests, especially privacy.
China's first e-commerce law takes effect on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, aiming at better protecting consumers' interests, especially privacy. (File Photo: VCG)
The country's online retail sales of goods and services in 2017 were 7,175.1 billion yuan (about 1,043.17 billion U.S. dollars), accounting for 19.6 percent of total retail sales, according to data from the China E-Commerce Research Center.
With the prosperous e-commerce market and growing AI technology application, there is a growing concern in China on consumers' privacy protection.
According to the e-commerce law, e-commerce platforms are prevented from limiting online buyers' search results into recommendations made only based on their personal information, including previous purchase records.
And operators should deal with personal data in a timely manner if a user requests to see, correct or delete their data.
"It is similar to 'the right to be forgotten' from General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) of EU," Wang Jian, director of the Cross-Border E-commerce Research Centre of University of International Business and Economics said.
The right to be forgotten can be found in the GDPR, which regulates personal data must be erased immediately in cases where the data are no longer needed for their original processing purposes, or the data subject has withdrawn the consent.
"As a response to social concern, China's e-commerce law, which reasonably balances the precision marketing in the era of big data and the protection of consumers' personal information, makes it clear how to collect, use and protect consumers' data and helps promoting user experiences on safety," Feng Xiaopeng, partner of King & Wood Mallesons, specialized in cross-border e-commerce and customs compliance, told CGTN.
E-commerce operators are defined in the new law as platform operators, such as Alibaba's Taobao.com, merchants on platforms, and those operating on their own websites or via other web services, like the messaging app WeChat.
The e-commerce law complements previous regulations such as the Protection of Consumer Rights and Interests as well as the Food Safety Law, by clearly defining the players of the e-commerce industry, according to Wang, noting that if online platforms fail to protect the safety of consumers, the new e-commerce law will hold them be responsible.