An online court was established in east China's Zhejiang Province to deal with e-commerce cases.
"Can both parties hear and see clearly the voices and images of each other and the court?" asked the judge at the beginning of an online hearing on Friday in a district court in the e-commerce hub of Hangzhou City.
Present at the courthouse were only the judge and a court clerk. The plaintiff Mr. Qi attended the hearing from the comfort of his home, while the two defendants, one in Shanghai and another in Hangzhou, were in their offices.
Mr. Qi bought 12 boxes of moon cakes last month on Tmall.com, an online shopping platform under Alibaba. After discovering that the products were different from what had been described as "no additives, with pine nuts", he took both the seller and Tmall.com to court.
This pilot online court program was initiated by Zhejiang provincial higher people's court. Three district courts in Hangzhou and the city's intermediate people's court are also testing this approach.
The online court is responsible for disputes related to online finance, online payment, infringement of Internet copyright, and online transactions. Since its launch on Aug. 13, the court has received 247 lawsuits.
Zhang Zheng, an official with Hangzhou Intermediate People's Court, said all legal procedures can be done through the new system.
Plaintiffs can register on the website of the online court, file lawsuits and pay legal costs.
Zhang said local courts had been under great pressure because of the growing number of e-commerce-related cases. For example, the court of Yuhang District received 1,229 Internet-related cases during the first nine months this year, up 192.62 percent from last year.
The online court is convenient to the courts and the litigants, he said.
"Lawsuits will be as easy as online shopping. You just need to stay at home, click and watch a video," said Luo Xin, chief judge of Yuhang district people's court.
Yao Haitao, official with Zhejiang Provincial Higher People's Court, said, more courts in the province will be involved in the program in the future.