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China

In China, product liability law is still in its early stages of development and the regulatory structure is somewhat fragmented rather than systematic. However, the rise of consumerism in China, accompanied by huge increases in domestic consumption and the institution of consumer credit, has spurred a stronger trend towards product liability actions in the courts. Responding to the government’s focus on protecting the rights of consumers, judges have steadily become more open to tort and contract-based suits, including class actions. Three main statutes govern product liability law: the general Principle of Civil Law, the Product Quality Law and the Consumer Protection Law.

For information on litigation and regulation issues in Hong Kong, visit the Hong Kong page.

Litigation       

Civil liability may be established through strict liability (i.e. without consideration of fault), tort or contract. Claims must be brought personally, not by a representative body. Expert evidence and witness evidence is admissible. The courts have no discovery procedure requiring disclosure of documents. Trials are by a single judge or a three-judge panel. There is no jury system. There is no limit on damages. The losing party will be responsible for court fees. Costs and disbursements are at the discretion of the judge. Recovery of costs, if ordered, is in practice not common.

In a domestic case, the court should deliver its judgment within six months of the case commencing, although a six-month extension can be obtained. There is no time limit for the court to deliver a judgment in a foreign-related claim. Appeals are possible from lower courts to higher courts. China’s Supreme People’s Court is the highest court, and its decisions may not be appealed.

Regulation      

The State’s Administration for Supervision of Product Quality (ASPQ) and its local administrative agencies are responsible for the supervision and administration of product quality. The ASPQ has the power to seize illegal products and revoke the registered business license of the offender. It also can impose a fine up to three times the value of illegal products. Chinese law does not require mandatory recall of products, although there are some exceptions, such as automobiles. Voluntary recalls can be made. Criminal sanctions include fines, confiscation of personal property, imprisonment and even the death penalty for a person who manufactures or knowingly sells a defective product which causes severe consequences. 

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Note past results are not guarantees of future results. Each matter is individual and will be decided on its own facts.