A Chinese blogger says that internet giant Alibaba has filed an RMB 10 million (HK$11 million) against him for reputational damage, after he allegedly criticised the quality of products sold on its e-commerce platforms.

Feng Dongyang claims he was sued because he mixed up two words in an online post: Taobao and Tmall, two of Alibaba’s e-commerce platforms.

Taobao (left) and Tmall (right). Photo: Screenshot.

Feng wrote an article on the Toutiao blog platform on November 4 last year criticising Taobao after China’s quality inspection agency found that several items sold on Tmall did not meet national standards.

He republished a list of 16 items of women’s underwear which failed inspections from the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine, mostly in relation to their fibre content. 15 of the items were sold on Tmall. However, the headline – as well as several paragraphs in the blog post – referred to Taobao.

Tmall was originally named Taobao Mall, and was a platform within the Taobao website. It was spun off and renamed Tmall in 2012.

Feng’s post was taken offline after 16 hours.

‘Inestimable’ damage

On January 23, Feng published another post, saying that he had received a summons from the Hangzhou Yuhang District People’s Court in eastern Zhejiang province. It requested his appearance in court in March.

Taobao Tmall court litigation
Court summons served to Feng Dongyang. Photo: Feng Dongyang.

He said he had been sued by Zhejiang Taobao Network Co., Ltd. in relation to his post, for “causing huge economic damage and inestimable damage to [the company’s] reputation.” The plaintiff sought RMB10 million in compensation.

In January, Feng said that neither Taobao nor the court replied to his enquiries about the case. In a post the following month, however, he said he had called Taobao’s customer service and lawyers, as well as mediators.

He has also posted a public apology for his misstatement, asking for Taobao’s forgiveness.

alibaba jack ma
Alibaba headquarters in Hangzhou, China. Photo: Thomas Lombard via Wikicommons.

In response to enquiries, a Taobao spokesperson told HKFP on Wednesday that Zhejiang Taobao has filed a lawsuit against Feng.

“It is not appropriate for us to further comment as the case has entered legal proceeding,” the company added.

Elson Tong

Elson Tong

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.