Regulating the Online Review and Rating Mechanisms in E-commerce: Taking Chinese Regulation as an Example


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Awarding Institution
  • Tianxiang HE (Supervisor)
  • Geraint HOWELLS (External person) (External Co-Supervisor)
Award date23 Dec 2021


This thesis looks at the regulation for online review and rating mechanisms in online shopping platforms from an angle of ‘the degree of softness’ to examine whether the Chinese regulation contains adequate safeguards to consumers and market participants against the risks associated with their use. In the absence of a regulatory theory in international debates, this thesis attempts to form an approach for building a fair online review and rating mechanism and testifies this approach in the Chinese regulatory context to formulate a Chinese solution for resolving the tricky reputational profile fakery issues in e-commerce and the overall sustainable regulation in the domestic.

First of all, this thesis identifies the functions and regulatory concerns of online review and rating mechanisms in online shopping platforms to draw attention to the risks associated with their use. The assessment result shows a need for regulatory intervention to control the associated risks, and total deregulation is unreasonable in this stage. This thesis next appraises the self-policing role of online review and rating mechanisms and consults the Challenges of Regulatory Connection for a proper regulatory design and approach. Given the risk profile of online review and rating mechanisms, a mild approach and a nuanced design leaning to soft regulation to allow flexibility and cooperation are generally advocated. Furthermore, this thesis analyses the contested Chinese circumstances and regulation of online review and rating mechanisms to enrich the international regulative debates on this topic. The non-conformity in business operation and the stringent hard regulation in China marks the uniqueness of our Chinese analysis in the regulative discussions on this topic. The risks and concerns of online review and rating mechanisms remain and merge with some Chinese conditions. Our examination reveals that the Chinese regulations suffer from some hard-law-related problems in legislation and regulation, and those hard problems cause regulatory disconnection and limit regulatory improvement. A mild approach and soft law governance are compatible with online review and rating mechanisms in China. They could benefit regulatory effectiveness and efficiency in combatting the urgent reputational profile fakery issues and ensure market fairness and consumer protection. As a result, this thesis forms a Chinese solution following a mild principle, suggesting reform of softness enhancement in the regulation. Finally, this thesis proposes a soft and hard regulatory framework for Chinese regulation.