Warranties & Refunds When Buying From China: A Complete Guide

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Product Warranty

Product warranties and refunds are essentially non-existent when importing goods from China, and many other countries. In this guide, we explain why this is the case. We go into detail on why some warranties are not actually warranties, and why your supplier may not be able to provide a refund even if they want to.

Further, we also explain other – and more realistic – ways to get compensation from your supplier. More specifically, this often takes place in terms of repairs, remakes, or spare parts.

Can I expect a warranty when importing from China?

In short, there are no warranties when importing products from China, or other countries in Asia for that matter. Once you’ve paid the balance, the supplier has no incentives to offer any form of warranty that allows for free returns and replacements of defective products.

There are exceptions, but at best you can expect a “warranty” including free spare parts while you still have to cover the air freight costs. It’s also important to mention that most manufacturers in China don’t have the margins to offer warranties.

It’s part of the risk that keeps the unit cost low, and it’s ultimately up to the buyer to ensure that they have a proper quality assurance program in place. Assuming that you can fall back on a supplier warranty is destined to fail. In the very rare case that you do get some sort of compensation, you should consider it a bonus.

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Why do some suppliers claim to offer product warranties?

Some suppliers claim to offer product warranties simply because many buyers fall for it. However, what many buyers forget to do is ask the supplier to present their warranty policy.

The problem is that they usually don’t have a warranty policy, even if claiming that they do offer some form of product warranty. In short, the warranty means whatever the supplier wants it to mean – depending on whether you’re about to place an order or are filing your first claim.

But, if you do ask, then the supplier will likely tell you that they only cover replacement parts.

Can I get a refund from my supplier if I’m not satisfied with the products?

Refunds from Chinese suppliers are rare, almost unheard of. There are a few reasons for this. First of all, most factories cannot simply refund tens of thousands of dollars because “you are not satisfied”. Many buyers fail to provide clear product specifications, which results in misunderstandings and quality issues – and it’s absurd to expect the suppliers to transact large sums to “unhappy buyers”.

Further, you cannot expect refunds even if you can clearly demonstrate that the supplier is to blame. This is simply because they have no reason to refund you once you’ve paid the balance.

But, let’s assume that your supplier is at fault and is actually willing to issue a refund. Well, they might not be able to do so. China has capital controls in place. They cannot simply log in online and send money to bank accounts anywhere in the world. Hence, they may not be able to do so even if they want to.

I have dealt with situations in which Chinese factories offer refunds, but it’s so rare that you should not even consider it a possibility.

Can we contact our bank to get a refund?

No, you cannot get wire transfers refunded. Contacting your bank will not change anything and they cannot do anything to get your money back.

How can we get money back from suppliers in China?

The simple answer is that you can’t get your money back from suppliers in China once it’s transferred. It’s therefore critical that you always ensure that your products are quality controlled and – if necessary – lab tested before you pay them.

Once the money is sent, it’s never to be seen again.

How do I get my money from Alibaba.com?

Alibaba.com has a payment service called Alibaba Trade Assurance. In short, Alibaba releases the funds once the supplier has shipped the items. However, it is rare that Alibaba can make any judgment when it comes to products not matching your expectations.

As such, Trade Assurance should not be seen as a “money-back guarantee” or a “warranty”.

Is it possible to return products to suppliers in China?

It happens, but only if the supplier allows the return to happen. We have dealt with product defects that could only be resolved by the factory. However, they’ll ask you to pay the freight cost at least one way.

Who is responsible for warranty claims from consumers?

Consumers are protected by consumer protection laws, that may entitle them to free repairs, replacements, or a warranty within a certain time frame.

In practice, the importer is always responsible for such claims, and cannot shift this responsibility to manufacturers in faraway lands.

It’s unfair, right? You’re left dealing with replacements, returns, and warranty claims while your supplier walks away scot-free.

Well, the way I see it, this is simply part of the risk involved when importing products from China, and Asia overall. Manufacturing products cost less in China, and one reason for this being the case is that the risk is higher.

It’s up to you as an importer to manage the risks, which can only be done by implementing a quality assurance program.

What are some ways to get compensated by a supplier?

Here are a few examples of more realistic ways you can get some sort of compensation from your supplier in case you receive defective or damaged products:

Option 1: Remake Defective Items

It’s a lot easier to make a supplier agree to a remake, rather than a complete refund. However, there are a number of things to consider when drafting the ‘remaking terms’ on the Sales Agreement:

1. When shall a supplier remake the products? Remaking, and reshipping, piece by piece (as defects are reported) is not viable for either party. Instead, I suggest that you specify a certain limit, that when exceeded, requires the supplier to remake the defective quantity right away. When the reported number of defective units is below this limit (e.g. 100 pcs), the supplier is allowed to remake the items when the next batch is ordered.

2. The supplier must comply with a certain time frame, counting from the date a compensation claim is filed to the date of shipping the items.

3. Don’t expect the supplier to cover the additional shipping costs, duties, and taxes. For duties and taxes, you can claim request a deduction from the local tax and customs authorities (there are regulations in most countries concerning international replacements), while the shipping may be compensated by your insurance company.

Option 2: Product Repairs

Warranty terms of many manufacturers are not much more than a written statement that they will ‘repair all defective items. Now, that is a slight problem. They are in China, and you are likely very far from China. Thus, the first step is to get the items returned. As such, the following questions must be answered:

  • Who is covering the return freight? (Most likely the importer)
  • What if the items are not allowed to pass through customs in China? (The Chinese customs, ‘Hai Guan’ often acts in mysterious ways)
  • How much time will the supplier have to repair the products?
  • What if the products can’t be repaired?

Some defects are just beyond the point of return. The same thing can also be said about items that are non-compliant with product standards and directives. You simply can’t repair a piece of clothing to magically become compliant with substance regulations, such as REACH (EU) or CA Prop 65 (US). That said, ‘the repair’ is often the compensation term of choice for many suppliers, as it leaves them in complete control over the process.

Option 3: Send Replacement Parts

When buying machinery and vehicles, for example, from suppliers in the United States, Europe, and Australia, you can be somewhat safe to assume that they have secured the replacement part supply chain. Machines, LED screens and many other products do need replacements on a regular basis.

Many suppliers, especially in the LED display industry, provide extra parts together with each order – thereby enabling the buyer to replace malfunctioning parts, e.g. fans and power supplies, while the supplier ships additional replacements. When you draft the replacement part terms, you need to take all of the following into consideration:

  • Will the parts be provided free of charge by the supplier? If yes, for how long is this valid?
  • Will the buyer, or the supplier, pay for the delivery cost? (The buyer, in most cases)
  • Are there any MOQ requirements for each replacement part?
  • How many days does the supplier have to ship the replacement parts?

Reporting Defective Items

It’s crucial to quickly report defective products as fast as possible. That said, you must provide a complete overview that details the types of defects and the number of defective items. Without this, neither you nor the supplier can quantify the extent of the quality issues and the potential value of the defective items.

Many inexperienced buyers tend to overreact by sending angry and emotional emails or Whatsapp messages. Meanwhile, the supplier is left wondering if it concerns a handful of defective units or the entire batch.


  • Product list
  • Defective list
  • Photos and video
  • Quantity of defective items
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  • 9 Responses to “Warranties & Refunds When Buying From China: A Complete Guide

    1. Milos Kobas at 5:00 pm

      My Company was buying Fiber laser 20W with Raycus laser source. We did not use this laser a lot. We decide to buy laser with Raycus source because of 3 years warranty and also because this is very good laser source. Unfortunately, about 10 days a go laser stop working…System error. We check on internet for this error and also call Miss Hetty from Shandong Youdao Automation Technology. She asked me to take photo of Raycus label from the laser source. I took photo and send it to them. They told me that Company Raycus will check do I still have warranty…I did not know what to check ? On my Sales Contract warranty is 3 years !!! 2019.30.6 I was buying fiber laser. So, I still have warranty to 2022.30.6. Short after this she send message to me that she got negative answer from Raycus company about my warranty and that I have to buy new laser source. I could not believe what she said to me. How is that possible ???. I need to know why is answer negative if I have 3 years warranty…6 more months. What to do to force this Company to respect Sales Contract and law ? I was talking to Miss Hetty Lou. She did not care when I told her that I will complain to Chinese embassy and Government… Best Regards…

      1. Fredrik Gronkvist at 11:27 am

        Hi Milos,

        As I wrote in the article, there are no ‘warranties’ or ‘guarantees’ in international trade.

    2. Scott at 10:07 pm

      I bought six cold spark machines through AliExpress for $3559 and paid a $700 tariff. The machines are garbage and one is malfunctioning already.
      AliExpress’ customer service is so frustrating to work with as they have no way to speak with anyone that can help directly and the company stopped responding to me.
      How can I contact AliExpress directly or get them to send replacement parts?

    3. Moises at 11:50 am

      The manufacturer is
      Shanghai cet electric co ltd

    4. Moises at 11:49 am

      I bought 5000 led light panel from Shanghai vet electric co ltd / the drivers of the led fail after 3 months of use , or less ( the warranted is 2 years)
      When I put my claim to the factory, no reply,
      It is supposed to be a very big supplier and manufacturer
      What to do ?
      Probably sending two people paid , to hold a banner , ” do not buy from this supplier” and let them stand near the stand of this supplier in the fairs ( probably he will be obliged to react and compensate you , just to move the banner and avoid harm his business)
      Really warrantee is just on paper , when dealing with Chinese , unless the compensation is for few pcs.

    5. kim emon at 12:32 pm

      I have been educated o0ver the past few days when working with gearbest to have a digital drawing tablet sent back to China to have repaired. When Gearbest told me to get the post office price to return, not ever thinking about how much it would cost, When they hit me for 75 dollars I choked. , that was nothing, Gearbest failed to follow the tracking number and it sat in a warehouse.for six weeks. , then they told me it got lost, the said they would credit my account for half the cost. the next day Gearbest says there are customs fees of over half the cost, , Gearbest said they have my tablet, but if I will not cover customs fees they will return it back to customs. Given the situation, I am guessing they will not compensate me a penny now. I refuse to pay out $550. for a $325.00 tablet that most likely will fail in a week. As it was it did not make one semester before failing completely.

      1. Fredrik Gronkvist at 5:17 am

        Hi Kim,

        This sounds like a scam. You should not pay any customs fees to the seller.

        1. Adela at 7:58 pm

          Hi Fredrik,
          I would like to check with you what are my chances with Gearbest.
          I have purchased a phone from them in April 2017, received the phone a month later and after ~2 months of use, the LCD screen stopped working and became completely black, without me dropping it or causing any damage to it. I had no chance to return the item back at that time, so I start contacting them in November 2017 about what happened and they offered me free repair, for which I was eligible within first year after purchase. I have sent them the phone in January 2018 for 35 USD, after they issued me with RMA number. They informed me that the repair will take about 1-2 months. They have received the item the first week of February 2018, and I heard back from them about 2-3 weeks ago (beginning of May 2018), after I sent them around 10 emails about what is going on with the repair and why it’s taking so long. So finally after 3 months I received a reply with information that they are not able to repair my phone, because they do not have needed parts for it and that the model of the phone was discontinued and they will send me a refund of 166 USD! That information got me very upset, since first I have not caused the damage to the phone, it was a faulty unit, second they agreed on repair and waited 5 months since the first message to inform me that they have no parts for it and they have discontinued that specific model, third I was eligible for the free repair and it was not my fault they discontinued that model, fourth I paid for the device 529 USD and they offered me only 166 USD back! I want to see if I have some rights in this pity situation. Especially when my unit was faulty and under free repair warranty, for which they had no parts and discontinued it. I was asking them to send me different model of the phone from the same brand and with the same price, but they refused. At the end I made them come up to 265 USD, 50% of the price I paid (without the shipping for the repair), but I still feel like that is not good offer. Any advice, please? Should I stick with 265 instead of 529+35, and just forget about it, or is there some way how to make my loss lower?

    6. Rick Hyne at 6:26 pm

      Warranties for the most part regardless of the country of manufacture are worthless. I import commercial LED lighting and the end user wants a low price and a long warranty, after all, that’s what the other guy is offering.

      I have seen cheap LED consumer lighting with a 10 year warranty (based on three hours per day use).

      The fact is there is really no warranty and no expectation after one year.

      LED as with all electronics is changing rapidly.

      The other thing with warranties is that a supplier or importer can offer one, but the onus will be on the buyer to fulfil all the requirements to get the product fixed.

    Comments are closed.

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