Overseas shopping sites fare badly in local test

Shanghai's Consumer Council recently tested a group of overseas shopping websites, and the results showed poor performance overall.

Incomplete information, slow logistics, and inconvenient communication are major problems encountered by Chinese consumers when purchasing directly on overseas websites, the Shanghai Consumer Council said yesterday.

The council conducted a test using seven overseas platforms covering 14 samples. 

eBay showed poor performance, with inconsistent charges, bad customer service, broken packaging and failure to support Alipay or WeChat payment, it said.

Each platform had two samples covered in the test, which only targeted general services — product quality and intellectual property rights were not included, the council said.

Three websites — Chemist Warehouse, eBay and VITACOST — do not have Chinese language versions, and Chemist Warehouse, Bodyguard and Windeln.de had fewer searching or filtering functions compared with others, according to the council.

Overall, none of the platforms provided adequate information, the council said.

The test used milk powder as an index, leading to the council finding that none of the sites indicated dairy source, instructions for baby formula use or production dates.

In terms of information confirmation, Chemist Warehouse and Bodyguard only provided confirmation on information including address, product price and delivery fare. Other details, such as delivery method, tax, and expected delivery time, were missing.

Amazon, VITACOST and Windeln.de had more complete information in this regard, the council said.

Logistics were slow overall, with 71 percent of the 14 samples showing delivery times of 10 or more days. Pharmacy Online and Bodyguard showed the longest delivery times, reaching 18 days.

For customer service, only Amazon and Bodyguard had online services and the rest provided email contact only. However, eBay failed to reply to an email query, according to the council.

In addition, the real charge of two samples on eBay were different from what was shown on the orders. For example, the total cost shown when ordering was 586.94 yuan (US$91.22), while the credit card charge was 616.34 yuan.

A milk powder sample sold on Pharmacy Online was marked as being produced in Australia, but the real product was made in New Zealand, according to the council.

The milk powder can of a sample sold on VITACOST was slightly broken, while the paper boxes of two samples from eBay were both slightly damaged.

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