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Users Solve Buyer-Seller Disputes at Chinese E-Commerce Giant Alibaba; Will Amazon, eBay Follow Suit?

Alibaba's crowdsourced conflict resolution for Taobao

Have you ever felt like a seller on eBay failed to meet the terms of your purchase agreement? Sure, you could report the seller, but would eBay staff really give you the satisfaction of knowing the seller who wronged you had been brought to justice? Probably not; in the future, however, there may be a more satisfying way to make sure sellers receive their due.

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba is testing a new, more democratic way to solve disputes between buyers and sellers. Instead of having staff members running its eBay-like site Taobao handle disputes, Alibaba is letting users themselves judge disagreements.

Alibaba Group is a collection of wildly successful e-commerce sites that includes Alibaba.com, a B2B portal connecting Chinese manufacturers with international buyers, and Taobao, an eBay-like online marketplace. Last year two of Alibaba’s portals processed 1.1 trillion yuan ($170 billion) in sales (that was more than the sales of eBay and Amazon combined!). According to the Economist, Alibaba is set to become the world’s first e-commerce firm to handle $1 trillion a year in transactions, and it’s estimated that Alibaba will be worth between $55 billion and over $120 billion at IPO. As far as eBay competitor Taobao goes, nearly a billion products are sold on Taobao, and the marketplace is one of the 20 most-visited websites in the world.

According to the Next Web, Taobao has been testing its dispute resolution platform for about one year. There, over 820,000 members (about 480,000 buyers and 330,000 sellers) have signed up as panelists to resolve issues between buyers and sellers. To date these panelists have solved more than 360,000 disputes, with each panel consisting of 31 users.

The panels handle three types of disputes: cases in which a seller has miscategorized a product; when a seller defaults on a commitment such as a specified shipping time or providing promised free shipping; and transactional disputes.

Though crowdsourcing judges for user disputes may not be the most efficient way to solve issues and keep good buying and selling practices in check, it’s certainly an interesting way to add to build off the democracy of the internet and maintain power in the users’ hands. Given the enormity of Alibaba’s market share, I wouldn’t be surprised to see U.S-based e-commerce sites like eBay and Amazon adopting similar dispute resolution platforms in the future.

Would you be interested in using your good judgement to help solve buyer-seller disputes on eBay and Amazon?

 
 
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