• How to Report Trade Disputes & IP Violations to Alibaba

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    Alibaba trade dispute

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    Asia Import Platform: General Products

    What do you do when a deal with an Alibaba.com listed supplier goes wrong? Perhaps you’ve received the wrong product. Maybe it’s damaged. Or, perhaps, you didn’t even receive any goods at all?

    And, not to forget, what if you find your custom designed or private label product listed on Alibaba?

    In this article, you will learn how to file a dispute on Alibaba.com and (hopefully) get your money back. But, you can only win a dispute if you have the evidence that Alibaba must have to decide in your favor.

    Keep reading, and learn how to how win supplier disputes if you receive poor quality or damaged goods – and how to report intellectual property violations.

    What counts as a trade dispute?

    Many situations fall within Alibaba’s definition of a trade dispute. A few of the most common follow below:

    • The products are defective or damaged
    • The products are not as described (i.e., design, colors or functions)
    • The products were never delivered

    However, many disputes are not about defective, damaged or incorrect items all. Many, if not most, trade disputes relates to quality or product compliance – something that makes it very hard for Alibaba.com to act.

    Alibaba.com cannot act based on the buyer’s perception of good quality. Hence, a dispute can only be won if the buyer can prove that the supplier failed to deliver a product matching the description.

    Types of Alibaba disputes

    In recent years, Alibaba.com has implemented eCommerce and online payment functions directly into its supplier directory platform.

    That said, many importers only use Alibaba.com for supplier sourcing and initial communication. As such, the transaction takes place outside of Alibaba’s platform, and can therefore not be tracked or monitored by them.

    When you report a dispute on Alibaba, you will need to choose between 3 categories:

    • Trade assurance disputes
    • Wholesale order disputes
    • Offline order disputes

    Depending on the setup, the procedure looks very different.

    a. Trade assurance and wholesale order disputes

    Alibaba has two separate trading systems within its platform:

    1. Trade Assurance: Mostly used for products that are made according to buyer specifications (i.e., custom designed and/or private label products). The Trade Assurance program is based on a procedure that is followed by both the supplier and buyer.

    For example, the buyer and supplier must sign a sales contract, and a third party inspection company must verify the quality of the products.

    The payment can be made outside of Alibaba’s own payment platform (Alipay). However, the buyer must pay directly to the supplier’s bank account approved by Alibaba.

    If not, the payment cannot be linked to the supplier that is covered by the Trade Assurance program.

    That said, the process and paper trail is still within Alibaba’s platform, giving them access to the information they need to resolve a dispute – and offer compensation based on the trade assurance terms.

    2. Wholesaler Orders: Some suppliers offer ready made goods (or wholesale products) directly on Alibaba.com. Wholesale products can be ordered directly on the site, and the payment is processed by Alibaba.com. Hence, the transaction can be easily tracked by Alibaba.com.

    You need to provide less evidence when placing an order within Alibaba’s own platform, something that they encourage you do to.

    As Alibaba has access to the product description and payment details, they can make a faster and more accurate decision when you file a dispute.

    b. Offline (non-Alipay processed) trade disputes

    You can still file a dispute, even if the transaction takes place outside of the trade assurance program or its payment system. As mentioned, it is likely that the vast majority of orders facilitated through Alibaba.com takes place ‘offline’.

    Filing such a dispute is more complicated, and requires that you can prove that the supplier did fail to comply with the product description.

    Alibaba.com cannot monitor the communication between the seller and buyer, that takes place outside of its platform. Neither can they check the product description, and assess whether the supplier did send defective products – or items that are not as described.

    Thus, it is up to the buyer to upload sufficient evidence, supporting the claim. Alibaba.com cannot possibly decide in the buyer’s favor on their word alone.

    How to win a trade dispute on Alibaba

    We have received countless emails and comments from disgruntled buyers, claiming that Alibaba.com failed to act in their favor – even though the supplier delivered a poor quality product.

    A few examples follow below:

    a. The items had the wrong fabrics and colors

    b. Machinery without the correct labeling (for usage in the United States)

    c. The product is perceived as low quality by the buyer

    Alibaba cannot act on the buyer’s perception of ‘good quality’, or their assumption that the supplier would be fully aware of all applicable safety standards and labeling requirements in the United States.

    In order to win a trade dispute, you must be able to show that the supplier did fail to provide a product, matching the written and clearly defined product specifications.

    For example, you need to provide the following when you file a dispute:

    a. Product specification sheets

    b. Design drawings and images

    c. Sales contract

    d. Transaction records

    e. Images and video showing the defective / wrong items

    f. Quality control and lab testing reports

    Based on the documents presented above, Alibaba.com can decide if the supplier is at fault. Without documentation and other evidence, they simply cannot act.

    The issue, however, is that many buyers don’t even consider sales contracts and quality inspections until after a situation comes up. But, by then it’s already too late to do something about it.

    That is also something that we are trying to change, with our Starter Package. When you sign up, you will get access to tutorials, interactive task lists and videos (a complete roadmap) that guides you step by step through the entire process:

    1. Draft product specification

    2. Identify qualified manufacturers

    3. Develop samples and tooling

    4. Sales contract, payment, quality control and production

    It is especially in Part 4 that you will prepare the documentation that you need to file a dispute, if the situation ever comes up. The good news is that you will most likely never get there, as most suppliers do a good job – as long as you work on their terms and provide them with clear instructions.

    To further simplify the process, you will also get access to a set of document templates (i.e., product specification template, quality checklists and sales contract) and label files.

    But, if you ever do have to file a dispute, you will at least have the documentation you need to support your case.

    Yet, at the end of the day, Alibaba’s dispute filing system is one of many tools to use if something goes wrong. It’s not a perfect backup solution, or warranty, whenever you run into trouble with your suppliers or products.

    Reporting intellectual property (IP) violations

    Quality and compliance issues are not the only things that keep business owners awake at night. Intellectual property infringement is a constant worry for buyer’s, importing goods from Asia.

    Many suppliers use their product catalog, on Alibaba.com and Globalsources.com, as a digital showroom, for products they have manufactured for other companies.

    That said, a supplier will not necessarily sell a product, simply because they put it up as a product listing. Most suppliers hardly see it as IP theft, as they only consider it as a demonstration of what they can make for other customers.

    I few years ago, that happened to one of our customers in the UK. Just days after their packaging supplier had completed the gift box sample for their new collection – it was listed in their product catalog.

    Our client was not amused when they, by chance, found their branded jewelry box listed on their Alibaba page.

    Luckily, it didn’t take more than a phone call to make the supplier realize they made a mistake.

    Like many other suppliers, the factory did not once consider this as an attempt to counterfeit the brand or even design. It was only a demo product, and they took the listing down in a matter of minutes.

    Contrary to popular belief, Chinese manufacturers are not constantly looking for brand names to steal and designs to replicate. In most cases, minor IP violations can (and should) be resolved with a friendly phone call.

    Hence, in most cases it is not even necessary to file an IP violation complain to Alibaba.com.

    But what if your design or brand shows up, and the supplier outright refuse to take it down?

    Alibaba you to file an IP violation report online, via its Aliprotect system. You can, for example, report the following types of IP violations:

    a. Images of your product

    b. Products are violating your brand name/s

    c. Products are violating your design and/or utility patents

    As always, Alibaba.com can only act based on evidence. Depending on the nature of the IP violation, you may need to provide the following:

    a. Trademark documentation

    b. Patent documentation

    c. Product images / documentation

    d. Proof of identity (i.e., passport, ID and company documents)

    e. The URL to the product that violates your IP (must be listed on Alibaba)

    Suppliers are wise to take IP theft reports seriously, as they can result in account suspension or even a termination of the service agreement.

    At a minimum, a successful report results in a listing removal, and possibly a warning.

    Do you want to launch your own private label or custom designed product?

    It can be hard to go from a design drawing to finished product. To help you manage the entire process – from creating a specification, to sampling and quality control – we created a Starter Package:

    a. Private Label & OEM Product Manufacturer Lists

    b. Product Specification Templates

    c. Product Label Samples

    d. Tutorials, Video Walkthroughs and Task Lists that guide you step-by-step through the entire process

    In addition, you can also book quality inspections, lab testing and shipping directly from the platform. Click here to learn more.

  • Planning to import products from Asia?

    Watch the video to learn how we can help you get started

  • 26 Responses to “How to Report Trade Disputes & IP Violations to Alibaba

    1. Fungayi Chizhwende at 10:18 pm

      Just had issues with supplier who increased freight charges and have asked me to apply for refund which i am not sure if i apply will i get full refund.

      1. Fredrik Gronkvist at 12:18 pm

        Hello Fungayi,

        Yes, right now freight costs are sky high. That said, I don’t think the supplier will accept to cover the product cost for this reason.

    2. Nakabuye Jesca at 6:13 pm

      I payed for goods offline and i completely didnt receive them and i have been communicating with the supplier and he is telling me i have to pay more $400 for insurance for my goods to reach please help me .

      1. Fredrik Gronkvist at 11:06 am

        This is almost certainly a scam. Don’t transfer more money to them.

    3. Wood at 6:03 pm

      I cancelled an order $1,800 from a supplier within the 5 working days period before shipment. Supplier refuses to refund my money, Alibaba Group arbitration ordered they return $500, seller refuses and went ahead and shipped goods. What do I do Fredrick?

    4. Yemi Afolasade ogunfadewo at 4:28 pm

      I got a contact of a manufacturer of sword From Alibaba and it has been from one lie to the other from begging his company name is mag force in Pakistan company that advertise on Alibaba I gave him contract of 250 sword to supply he has supplied 200 in which one is missing one is bad he told me he will deliver by 18 of July from 18 to 22 July from then he managed to supply additional 50 to make totals 200 from their it has been from one lies to another I will like Alibaba to blacklist him and to look for a way to get my money or my goods as soon as possible his type should not be in your plat form he has no single truth in him mouths [EDIT]

    5. Nicole Hines at 9:00 pm

      I have just spent two weekends contacting dozens of Chinese gift box factories to remove images stolen from my website. I do it every few months. My images cost me over $50,000 and Chinese factories believe they are just free to take. They either steal them directly, or they steal them from each other.

      I write to these companies to give them the opportunity to remove them before I report them to Alibaba direct. Most are compliant but many simply refuse.

      Most are completely unaware that taking images from other websites is even a problem and many believe that a Google image search is a free image service providing them with images they can just use at will.

      Keeping up with the level and frequency of image theft is hugely time consuming and frustrating.

      The means of reporting image theft to Alibaba direct is deliberately difficult even to register. Alibaba has not cracked down on image theft or IP infringement, they have simply made it more difficult to complain about the culprits.

      I have requested companies remove images and a few months later there’s a whole catalogue of new ones. It’s a never ending battle.

      Some websites are entirely made up of images the company has stolen from other websites.

      I have had customers contact me to advise they have ‘found my factory’, which of course they haven’t, they have just found dozens of my stolen images. In fact many companies actually watermark my images with their own company name!

      Alibaba suppliers want to supply products to Europe and the USA, it is incumbent on Alibaba to ensure that suppliers advertising on their platform are aware of Copyright laws and IP infringement. Alibaba are condoning IP infringement by failing to ensure advertisers are using images of their own products.

      If Alibaba want customers to be confident in the suppliers they list then customers should have confidence that the products being advertised were actually made by the company they are enquiring to.

      If suppliers want to show products they can make, rather than ones they actually have made then they should make samples of the product and take their own photographs.

      I would suggest that anyone purchasing from a supplier via Alibaba should have absolutely zero confidence that the factory actually made the item they are advertising.

      If I had $1.00 for every Chinese gift box factory who claims to have made boxes for Victoria Secret I could retire!

      Buyer beware…don’t assume that the item you see advertised was made by the factory you have contacted.

      You can spot image theft because their catalogue of photos will be quite random, use different styling, different lighting and often ‘props’ that don’t look consistent.

      If you are in doubt, do your own image search and you’ll likely find the same image on multiple sites. It’s impossible to know who manufactured the original product and photographed it.

      The same is true of direct website contact. I just contacted a Chinese factory for having dozens of my stolen images on their site and advised I would report the image theft to Google. They responded by threatening to post hundreds of negative blogs about my company and registering my website on porn sites!

      Image theft and IP infringement is a huge problem in China and Alibaba should be spearheading better education on this issue together with clamping down hard on companies that don’t comply.

      1. Fredrik Gronkvist at 7:03 pm

        Thank you for your for sharing your experience

    6. Alvin Philip Cheriyan at 6:42 am

      I had placed an order through ali baba for hand sanatizer but the seller from day one giving wrong information regarding the dispatch status which I got to know from dhl, when finally dhl received the shipment 8 days later from his mentioned date, 4 days after he took back the shipment and now not responding to me nor giving me refund.
      Feeling Alibaba is seller friendly platform buyer not at all protected.
      Planning to contact my credit card company
      Is there any thing else I can do.

      1. Fredrik Gronkvist at 6:14 pm

        Hi Alvin,

        The seller took back the shipment from DHL? I don’t understand.

        1. Apc at 8:02 pm

          Hi Fredrick

          Dhl told ,seller has asked for the shipment back and they had updated on there tracking website ‘shipment returned to the shipper’

      2. Brooke at 11:54 pm

        I placed an order through Focus Herb Corp on Alibaba for CBD products after they assured me they ship to the US all the time with no issues. I checked their reviews and all looked fine, “customers” never stated any problems. After waiting weeks for my order I discovered the products were seized in US customs and it is illegal to ship CBD products internationally without documentation which customs requested from the seller. Focus Herb representative tells me to contact US customs again and that they did everything on their end providing the docs customs requested. I’ve been in contact with US customs several times they inform me Focus Herb never sent FDA docs and I contact Focus Herb again and then they send me documents that are not even for the products I ordered. The docs are for olive leaf extract and psoralea coryliforia extract and that is what they ship the CBD under. The products would not pass through US customs because that’s not what the products are and they tell me this all after I already paid them for the products. Now the representative has changed her name in the message app through alibaba and isn’t giving me my refund I requested. I placed my order back in April and it is now July. The representative isn’t responsible to my messages at all now. I lost so much money and clients over this mess. What do you recommend I do to get my money back and make sure this company doesn’t get away with doing this to other buyers?

        1. Fredrik Gronkvist at 2:22 pm

          This is why importers must NEVER assume that the supplier understands the product regulations in the importers country. This happens all the time, and I doubt Alibaba’s dispute resolution team is qualified to make decisions based on product compliance related matters. At best, they can make a decision based on non-shipment, severe and obvious quality issues, or an incorrect product.

    7. Humberto Montero at 2:50 pm

      Hi Fredrik,

      Thanks for providing so much valuable information.
      I’ve used Alibaba for several years and I have had all kinds of experiences. Right now, I’m having some trouble with a manufacturer which I payed him for an order advancement but he says he won’t be able to complete the order; so he offer me to send me the money back.
      I depend on him and I really need him to make this happen but he refuses to deliver it.
      Is there a way Alibaba could punish him in some way?


      1. Fredrik Gronkvist at 6:16 pm

        Hello Humberto,

        The best thing you can do in this situation is to get the money back

    8. Dominic Flynn at 1:11 am

      Thanks for sharing this informative article. I think many people didn’t know those information regarding alibaba.

    9. Tee Gee at 4:21 pm

      Hi, we bought a dtg printer and accessories for $6200 from RFC that has not worked since we have received it mid-May. The transaction was offline but we didn’t realize it until we contacted alibaba for assistance. Their technician made himself available to help us set up printer via teamviewer the end of June but we were out of town on bereavement leave during that time. We retuned 4 July to get it set up. This far it has not worked. We’ve had to replace the print head and now the encoder which has required us to take machine apart to fix. We’ve asked for a refund immediately 5 July when we noticed the machine wasn’t working and they have ignored us and keep insisting we follow their technician’s directions to fix. They know we’ve never used machine because it has never worked and they required us to buy a new print head because it’s not covered under warranty. Please help us recoup our $6200 back.

    10. Virgie monton at 11:32 am

      Hi. I ordered 306 units of chairs from ISee Furniture. When the chairs arrived, the staff sitting on it started falling and had injuries. At present, more than 50 units had been broken and gas lifts not functioning. Most of all , The Father of Chairman & the President/CEO both fell from the chairs.
      The Client has Rejected all these 306 chairs and has purchased another supplier the replacement
      The workstations they also delivered had poor quality desks tops and Rusty frames.
      Please help me collect REFUND from this factory. Or please give me china government agency contact informations where I can file Cases against this factory for Refusing to Refund this amount of $11,230,00.00 + shipment costs and miscellaneous expenses.

      I have been buying a lot of products I. Your country for 16 years now since I started my business in 2013. And I Trust that the china government will protect my interest by helping me.
      I know that our government has very good relations with your government thru our Beloved President Duterte and your President Xin Ping.

      Please send me reply to my email: virgiemonton@gmail.com . My wechat is +639178888145

      Thank you very much.

      The total order I gave to this factory was more than $42,0000.00 last September, 2018.

      1. Fredrik Gronkvist at 7:19 pm

        Hello Virgie,

        There is no mechanism for collecting refunds. As in any country, your only option is to take this supplier to court – in China. That requires that you have a contract and product documentation.

    11. Sue Corvasce at 1:50 pm

      I have purchased 310 items of glass charger plate through Alibaba.com.
      I received products in November however I did not realise the fault of the product until I set up my first wedding in February.
      I made contact with the supplier immediately the day after to advise them that the Charger plates were made with a mound of glass in centre of plate so the dinner plate you place on top of the charger plates do not sit flat. They rock from side to side which is not comfortable to eat from as not only do they move when trying to cut your meal they also make a huge noise banging glass on glass.
      My bride demanded a full refund of my first ever wedding rental job.
      Unfortunately the supplier would not help me and Alibaba.com also refused to help me because it was past 30 days from receiving goods.
      Out of desperation I asked the supplier to remake the products free of charge as they were faulty and I would pay the shipping. Again they refused to help me.
      I had no other choice but to purchase new products from another supplier as I have another wedding rental booking coming up.

      I am now out of pocket over $500.00.

      1. Fredrik Gronkvist at 5:05 pm

        Hello Sue,

        You must get every order quality inspected before shipment. That’s the only way to avoid these issues.

    12. sudhesh at 9:49 pm

      i paid wuxi pinkie a seller in alibaba complete amount of 330$ for moulds under trade assurance. the delivery was done on time but the product i received is defective and not as per dimensions as ordered. but wen i go back to my order it does not give me any option to open a dispute . it says order closed.

      i have tried to communicate with the seller. he is taking time to respond.
      what can i do.

      1. Fredrik Gronkvist at 6:18 am

        Hi Sudhesh,

        You can still contact Alibaba to report this, but I don’t think is covered by Trade Assurance, as the mould is already shipped.

        1. tam nguyen at 12:46 am

          how to contact alibaba.com ?

        2. tam nguyen at 12:48 am

          I got fraud and i want somebody speak to me but no way to contact Alibaba
          i have this phone number but even Thursday they still not working 408 785 5580, i need your help, I want 9950$ back.

          1. Fredrik Gronkvist at 5:56 pm

            Hello Tam,

            We are not representing Alibaba or act as brokers.

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