More global brands criticized for discriminatory return policy in Chinese mainland
Published: Dec 05, 2021 08:48 PM
A Louis Vuitton store in Beijing's SKP shopping mall on December 5,2021 Photo: Xiong Xinyi/GT

A Louis Vuitton store in Beijing's SKP shopping mall on December 5,2021 Photo: Xiong Xinyi/GT

French luxury brand Louis Vuitton and Italian luxury label Gucci are among the latest international brands found to be using differentiated product exchange and return policies toward consumers in the Chinese mainland compared with other markets, sparking fresh backlash from Chinese consumers after the case of Canadian luxury parka maker Canada Goose.

Taking Louis Vuitton as an example, the Global Times found that on its official websites in the US and Canada, its returns and exchanges policy reads that returns will be accepted for exchange in any freestanding Louis Vuitton store around the world, excluding Brazil, China, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, India, Jordan, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Lebanon, Mexico, and Russia, among others.

A Louis Vuitton staff in a high-end shopping mall in Beijing told the Global Times on Sunday that items can be returned for exchange within 30 days of purchase but the store does not provide refunds.

As for online sales, mainland consumers can return items within seven days after receiving the product, but in the US, Canada and other countries, the period is 30 days.

The brand's different return and exchange policies triggered fresh anger among Chinese consumers on Chinese Twitter-like social media Sina Weibo over the weekend.

"You contribute greatly to its market revenue, while it takes discriminatory policy against you. What's the problem with you?" a Chinese netizen wrote on Weibo, hinting that Chinese consumers shouldn't buy from the brand.

Some netizens are also calling for the revision of market regulations in China to better protect the rights and interests of Chinese consumers.

Similarly, refunds for purchased items in a Gucci physical store in the Chinese mainland are not provided, an official hotline services person and a staff in a store told the Global Times on Sunday. 

In contrast, "Gucci will accept exchanges or returns of eligible merchandise within 14 days of purchase" in a physical store in the US.

A number of other international brands including Christian Dior and Burberry also follow different after-sale policies between the Chinese mainland and other markets both via the online and physical sales channels.

"Our Consumer Protection Law applies to both luxury goods and ordinary ones, treating them equally," said Zhao Zhanling, a legal counsel at the Beijing-based Internet Society of China.

"If consumers can prove that the product they bought has quality problems after the purchase, the merchant constitutes a breach of contract. Even if the merchant said that the product cannot be returned and can only be exchanged, there is no legal basis for this statement," Zhao told the Global Times on Sunday.

For online sales, the return and exchange periods in other markets are obviously longer than in the Chinese mainland, which shows that those brands are not friendly enough to mainland consumers, said Chen Yinjiang, deputy secretary general of the China Consumer Protection Law Society.

LVMH, the world's leading luxury products group with leading brands like Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior, delivered outstanding results for its first half of 2021, with a remarkable 53 percent revenue increase from 2020, beating market expectations.

Asia, especially China, continues to drive LVMH's growth, accounting for nearly 40 percent of the group's revenue.