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BUSINESS & TECH

Evicted Merchants Plead With Alibaba for Second Chance

By Mo Yelin and Wang Qionghui
Tmall has said that despite what has been reported, the proportion of merchants who passed this year's test was no different from previous years. Pictured is a Tmall
Tmall has said that despite what has been reported, the proportion of merchants who passed this year's test was no different from previous years. Pictured is a Tmall "car vending machine" in its hometown of Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang province. Photo: Visual China

More than 1,000 online merchants are turning to an ancient Chinese tradition that says people throughout the kingdom who feel wronged by the system can still travel to the capital to have their say.

Many of the digital shop owners went to Hangzhou, headquarters of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., to argue that their livelihoods depend on the e-commerce giant’s popular online shopping malls, after being informed they would be evicted.

The group of merchants who cooperate with Tmall, Alibaba’s popular business-to-consumer (B2C) platform, took action after learning of their upcoming eviction for failing a service proficiency test, technology portal Lanjing TMT reported.

One merchant said they are normally notified of the test about a year in advance, giving them time to prepare. But this year they only learned about it in July, according to the report. The group traveled to Hangzhou to ask the company to reinstate its 2017 test standards, or at least extend the testing period under the newer standards to give them more time to prepare.

Tmall disputed the report.

“There were indeed some merchants gathering in the headquarters recently but both the size of the group and the reasons they came are totally misleading in what has been reported,” a representative from the company told Caxin.

Tmall reckons that some merchants did fail the test, but they were in Hangzhou just to ask for the possibility of a second chance. The proportion of those who passed and failed is no different from previous years as the policy enters its ninth year, Tmall said in a statement on its official microblog. The company has listened to the merchants’ pleas and will reply soon, the statement added.

The controversy isn’t the first between Alibaba and the thousands of smaller third-party merchants who populate its popular online marketplaces. In 2009, Tmall launched the testing system to qualify all merchants based on factors like speed of delivery and after-sales service.

Similarly in 2011, more than 300 merchants gathered in Hangzhou to protest a new online search policy that they said favored bigger players at their expense.

Contact reporter Mo Yelin (yelinmo@caixin.com)

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