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The Supreme People's Court's Provisions on Several Issues Related to Trial of Cases by the Internet Courts

Promulgation Date: 2018-9-6
Title: The Supreme People's Court's Provisions on Several Issues Related to Trial of Cases by the Internet Courts
Document Number:法释〔2018〕16号
Expiration date: 
Promulgating Entities: Supreme People's Court

The following provisions on the trial of cases by Internet Courts are made on the basis of the "P.R.C. Civil Procedure Law", the P.R.C. Administrative Litigation Law", and other relevant laws combined with actual trial work conditions in the people's courts, so as to standardize Internet Courts' Procedural Activities, to protect the lawful rights and interests of parties and other litigation participants, and to ensure just and effective trial of cases.

Article 1: The Internet Courts employ online methods for trying cases; and procedural steps such as case acceptance, service, mediation, exchange of evidence, pretrial preparations, hearings, and announcement of verdicts shall usually be completed online.

Based on applications by the parties, or as necessary for trial, the Internet Courts may decide to complete some procedural steps offline.

Article 2: The Beijing, Guangzhou, and Hangzhou Internet courts consolidate jurisdiction for all of the following cases over which basic level people's courts should have jurisdiction within the cities' jurisdictions:

(1) Disputes arising from contracts formed through e-commerce platforms or performance of online purchasing contracts;

(2) disputes over online service contracts where all acts of formation and performance are to be completed online;

(3) Disputes over financial credit contracts, and disputes over small value contracts, where all acts of formation and performance are to be completed online;

(4) Disputes on copyrights and related rights attributions for works first presented on the internet;

(5) Disputes arising from violations on the internet of copyrights and related rights of works presented or transmitted online;

(6) Internet domain name rights, violations, and contract disputes;

(7) Disputes arising from internet violations of others' rights in their persons or property or other civil rights and interests;

(8) Product liability disputes arising from defects, or violations of others' rights others' rights in their persons or property, of goods purchased through e-commerce platforms;

(9) Internet public interest litigation cases raised by the procuratorates;

(10) Administrative disputes arising from administrative acts of administrative organs such as Internet information management or service management related to Internet transactions of goods;

(11) Other Internet civil or administrative cases where a higher people's court designates jurisdiction.

Article 3: Within the scope of contract and other property rights disputes provided for in article 2 of these provisions, parties may lawfully agree to stipulate to the jurisdiction of an Internet Court for a place with an actual connection to the controversy.

Where e-business operators, network service provider businesses, and so forth employ standard contract terms to reach agreement with users on jurisdiction, they shall meet the requirements for standardized contract terms provided for in laws and judicial interpretations.

Article 4: The Beijing Fourth Intermediate People's Court is to try cases of parties appealing judgments or rulings of the Beijing Internet Court, but the Beijing intellectual property rights court is to try appeals of cases of disputes on internet copyright attribution and violations, or internet domain name disputes.

The Guangzhou Intermediate People's Court is to try cases of parties appealing judgments or rulings of the Guangzhou Internet Court, but the Guangzhou intellectual property rights court is to try appeals of cases of disputes on internet copyright attribution and violations, or internet domain name disputes.

The Hangzhou Intermediate People's Court is to try cases of parties appealing judgments or rulings of the Hangzhou Internet Court.

Article 5: Internet courts shall establish internet litigation platforms (hereinafter simply "litigation platforms) as designated platforms for the court to handle cases and for parties and other litigation participants to carry out procedural conduct. Procedural conduct made through the litigation platform is legally effective.

E-commerce platform operators, network service provider businesses, and relevant state organs shall provide data involved with cases that is needed for the Internet Courts to try cases, and orderly connect it to the litigation platform; and the Internet Courts are to verify it online, fix it in real-time, and manage security. The litigation platform's storage and use of data involved in the case shall comply with the "P.R.C. Cybersecurity Law" and other relevant laws and regulations.

Article 6: Where parties and other litigation participants use the litigation platform to carry out procedural conduct, they shall complete online methods of identify verification such as identity document comparisons, bio-metric trait identification, or the national identity verification platform, and receive a special account number to log in to the litigation platform.

Conduct made by logging on to the litigation platform using the special account number is viewed as the conduct of the the verified person themselves, except where technological problems with the litigation platform cause system errors, or the verified person can prove that the the litigation platform account number was stolen and used.

Article 7: Internet Courts' accepting plaintiff's materials to initiate litigation online are to handle it online as follows within 7 days of receiving the materials.

(1) Where the requirements for initiating litigation are met, register and file the case and serve litigation documents such as the notice of case acceptance, notice to pay litigation fees, and notice to produce evidence.

(2) Where the materials provided do not meet requirement, promptly issue a notice to supplement and correct, and begin newly calculating the time period for acceptance from the date on which the supplemented and corrected materials are received; and where the plaintiff does not supplement and correct as requested in the designated time, the materials for initiating litigation are to be returned.

(3) Where the requirements for initiating litigation are not met, and after elucidation the plaintiff has no objections, the materials for initiating litigation are to be returned; but where the plaintiff persists in continuing to initiate litigation, a ruling to not accept is to be made in accordance with law.

Article 8: After Internet Courts accept a case, they may use cell phone numbers, faxes, e-mail addresses, instant messenger accounts, and so forth as provided by the plaintiff, to notify the defendant or third parties to conduct identify verification related to the case through the litigation platform.

The defendant and third parties shall learn about case information, accept and provide litigation materials, and carry out procedural acts through the litigation platform.

Article 9: Where Internet Courts organize online exchanges of evidence, the parties shall present evidence online by uploading electronic data and importing it into the litigation platform or uploading it to the litigation platform after digitalizing it through methods such as scanning, photographing, or recording; and may also use electronic data that has already been imported to the litigation platform to prove their viewpoints.

Article 10: Where parties and other litigation participants using technological methods to digitalize and submit litigation materials such as proofs of identify, copies of business licenses, written authorizations, or proofs of identity as legal representative, as well as evidence materials such as documentary evidence, appraisal opinions, or inquest records, after they have been verified by the Internet Courts, they are to be viewed as meeting the formal requirement of the original. Where the opposing party raises objections to the authenticity of the materials described above and has reasonable grounds, the Internet Courts shall request the parties provide the originals.

Article 11: Where parties raise objections to the authenticity of electronic data, the Internet Courts shall summarize the debate on the evidence, review and assess the authenticity of electronic data's creation, collection, storage, and transfer, emphasizing review of the following content:

(1) Whether the computer systems and other hardware and software environments relied upon in the creation, collection, storage, and transmission of the electronic data were secure and reliable;

(2) Whether the entity that produced the electronic data and its time of creation are certain, and whether the content expressed is clear, objective, and accurate;

(3) Whether the electronic data's storage and storage medium are certain, and whether the means and tactics for storage are appropriate;

(4) Whether the entity collecting and fixing the electronic data, and the tools and methods uses, are reliable, and whether the collection process can be repeated;

(5) Whether the electronic data has any additions, deletions, revisions, or additions, is incomplete, or has other such situations;

(6) Whether electronic data may be verified through specified forms.

Where the authenticity of electronic data submitted by parties can be proven through electronic signatures, reliable time stamps, hash value checks, blockchain, and other technological methods for collecting, fixing, and preventing alteration of evidence, or verified through the electronic evidence collection and storage platform, the Internet Courts shall confirm it.

Parties may apply for persons with specialized knowledge to submit comments on electronic data techniques. Internet Courts may retain an evaluation of the authenticity of electronic data or collect other relevant evidence for comparison, based either on the application of the parties or its own authority.

Article 12: Internet Courts are to employ online video methods to hold in-court proceedings. Where there are special situations where it is truly necessary to check identities at court, compare originals, or verify physical objects, the Internet Courts may decide to hold offline court proceedings, but other procedural steps shall still be completed online.

Article 13: Internet Courts may decide to employ the following simplified procedures in light of the circumstances:

(1) Where prior to court proceedings, the parties identities have been verified, notice of rights and obligations have been given, and the announcement about courtroom discipline has been given online, these needn't be repeated at court proceedings.

(2) Where parties have already completed the exchange of evidence online, after an explanation from the judge at hearings, evidence that is not in contention does not need to be presented or debated again;

(3) With the parties' consent, party statements, court investigation, courtroom debate, and other trial steps may be conducted together. In simple civil cases, hearings may be conducted directly revolving around the demands of the litigation or the elements of the case.

Article 14: Based on the special characteristics of online hearings, the Internet Courts are to apply the relevant provisions of the "Rules of Court of the People's Courts of the P.R.C." Except where it is found to be due to network failure, equipment damage, power outages, or force majeur, where parties do not punctually participate in online hearings, it is to be viewed as "refusal to appear at court", and where the leave without authorization, it will be viewed as 'leaving court during a proceeding', and will be dealt with in accordance with the "Civil Procedure Law of the P.R.C.", "The Administrative Litigation Law of the P.R.C." and relevant judicial interpretations.

Article 15: With the consent of the parties, the Internet Courts shall use electronic means such the China Trial Process Information Disclosure Network, the litigation platform, mobile phone text messages, fax, e-mail, and instant messenger accounts to serve litigation documents and evidence materials submitted by the parties.

Where parties do not clearly express consent, but have already stipulated at the time the dispute occurred to use electronic service during litigation, or accept already completed electronic service through confirming receipt or taking corresponding procedural action, and do not clearly express disagreement with electronic service, it may be viewed as consent to electronic service.

Upon informing parties of their rights and obligations, and obtaining their consent, Internet Courts may electronically serve judgment documents. Where parties submit that they need hard copies of the judgment documents, the Internet Court shall provide them.

Article 16: Internet Courts conducting electronic service shall confirm the specific methods and addresses for electronic service with the parties, and inform them of electronic service's scope of application, validity, methods for changing delivery addresses, and other matters regarding service on which information needs to be given.

Where the person receiving service provides valid addresses for service, the Internet Courts may make the preferred method of service any mobile phone numbers, e-mail accounts, instant messenger accounts, and other routine electronic addresses that can be confirmed as being in a state of regular activity by the persons receiving service for the past three months .

Article 17: Where internet courts conduct service to the electronic address provided or confirmed by the service recipient, it is viewed as served at the time when the information reaches the designated system of the recipient.

Where Internet Courts conduct service to the service recipients' regular electronic address or other electronic address that could be obtained, whether service was completed is determined based on the following circumstances:

(1) Where the recipient of service responds that they have already received the materials served, or takes action based on and corresponding to the materials served, service is viewed as completed.

(2) Where the recipient of service's media system reports back that the recipient has already read it, or where there is other evidence showing that may show that the recipient has already received it, there is a presumption that effective service has been completed, except where the recipient can prove they did not recieve the served content due to situations like error in the storage media system, the service address not being their own or used by them, or that it was not them that accessed it.

Where effective service was completed, the Internet Courts shall draft an electronic service receipt. The electronic service receipt is valid as proof of service.

Article 18: In simple civil cases that need to have service by announcement, and where the facts are clear, and the rights and obligations are clear, the Internet Courts may may apply simplified procedures for trial:

Article 19: In cases heard online by the Internet Courts, where litigation materials such as mediation agreements, records, and electronic service receipts have been confirmed by adjudicators, judges' assistants, clerks, parties, as well as other litigation participants, and so forth through online methods such as confirmation and electronic seals and signatures, it will be viewed as meeting the 'signature' requirements of the 'P.R.C. Civil Procedure Law"

Article 20: In cases heard online by Internet Courts, voice-recognition technology may be used to create a simultaneous electronic record during litigation steps such as mediation, exchange of evidence, hearings, panel discussions, and so forth. After electronic records are checked and confirmed through online methods, they possess the same legal validity as written records.

Article 21: Internet Courts shall use the litigation platform to send the simultaneous electronic file along with the case, forming an electronic archive. Where the hard-copy case archive has already been full converted to an electronic archive, the electronic archive may be substituted for the hard-copy in conducting transfers for appeals and archiving of the case file.

Article 22: Where parties to cases heard by the Internet Court appeal, the second-instance trial court is, in principle, to apply online trial methods. Reference these provisions for the online trial rules to be applied by the second-instance trial court.

Article 23: These Provisions take effect on September 7, 2018. Where judicial interpretations previously promulgated by the Supreme People's Court differ from these Provisions, these Provisions are controlling.


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