We get a lot of inquiries for our China Lawyers about product quality issues. Typically these are not for a lot of money, anywhere from less than a hundred USD to about $100,000.
For the lower value complaints the situation is normally a purchase of shoes, a dress, or something like hair extensions from an online marketplace. Either it’s the wrong kind of shoe, or the wrong style or color dress, or the material is clearly fake or low quality. There has even been one guy which approached our firm with a story and photos of how he purchased an “all natural” wood watch band from a China online shop which gave him chemical burns. Yikes!
Higher value (though still law from an international law perspective) complaints typically go something like this:
“We are a small company, we found a Chinese partner online, product samples were good, they demanded prepayment and we agreed, we sent pre-payment, they sent the product but it is all Broken/Poor Quality/Bricks/Sand/A completely different product.” Pick one.
For the smaller individuals my recommendation is: Don’t buy from China. Whatever consumer protection laws you think apply to this Chinese “company” selling you fake hair on the internet simply don’t exist. There is no agency that will look into a $300 fake product claim against a Chinese company made by someone resident in the USA, Europe or anywhere else. Filing a police report would probably cost more than the cash already lost on the fake product, and would be equally useless. The police in China aren’t looking out for you, and they won’t do anything about your complaint. They just won’t.
For the high value complaints, typically from a small or medium size company, the above also applies to you for the most part.
We can hit the company with demand letters and phone calls, but they will likely just ignore all of that. A lawsuit might get them to pay, but just getting all evidence ready to file a suit may be prohibitively costly. Most of the time contracts are not existent, or evidence is not preserved, so there’s actually not much case to go on. A lot of times such clients will come to us with a contract only in English, which only gives the “English name” of the Chinese company. These contracts are useless as they do not name a real party. The Chinese company’s real name is only in Chinese.
If you find yourself caught in this situation, call it a learning experience, and then call your China Lawyer. Perform due diligence on your Chinese partner, know who you are doing business with. Draft the right contracts, make sure they name the right China company, and are enforceable in China. Make sure there are real consequences for the Chinese company should they breach the contract.
The truth is that Chinese companies will do what they can get away with. If you don’t hold them accountable, and you don’t create legal responsibilities for them, they will do what they can to get away scott-free with your cash.