Very interesting post by David Dayton over at Silk Road International, entitled, “Recent Chinese Negotiation Tactics: Translated!” The post is on the responses (excuses?) Chinese companies give when Westerners complain to them about product quality. David handles sourcing and quality control for mostly Western companies doing business in Asia and his post focuses on dealing with these responses while still within a supplier/buyer relationship.
My job as lawyer on most quality control problems usually does not start until the relationship is pretty much over.
Over the years, I have handled countless quality dispute cases against Chinese companies and I have heard nearly all of the same exclamations David lists. I have been brought in to threaten legal action in an effort to get the money back.
We usually do this by first writing a demand letter to the Chinese company stating that we have been brought on to get our client a full refund and if we do not have that within ___ days, we will pursue litigation in _______. We always write this letter in Chinese both so the Chinese company fully understands our position and to let them know it will be no big deal for us to secure Chinese counsel to sue them in China (where these lawsuits usually need to occur) tomorrow. Our letters also usually explain the law just enough to convince the Chinese company resistance is futile.
These letters, coupled usually with weeks of negotiations, usually lead to some payment around half the time. If the letter does not work, we analyze the client’s chance of prevailing were it to sue and the likely cost of suit and then recommend whether it should litigate/arbitrate or not, and where..
These Chinese companies usually claim that the quality of product they provided my client was warranted by the amount my client paid for it. According to the Chinese company, if my client had wanted better quality, it would have had to pay more for it. Unfortunately, this is often a great defense.
If you want your Chinese manufacturer to make your product made to a particular standard, you have to be unbelievably explicit about exactly how you want your product to be manufactured. For example, even if everyone in your industry uses at least 10% stainless steel for a particular product and you have told your manufacturer countless times that your product must be at least 10% stainless steel and if your manufacturer’s initial sample contained 11% stainless steel, you still must make sure your written contract (preferably in Chinese) with your manufacturer explicitly states all product must have at least 10% stainless steel content. If your contract does not state that you are requiring at least 10% stainless steel content and you get product with 3% stainless steel content, I can virtually guarantee your supplier claim you paid for product with only 3% stainless steel content and there is a very good chance a Chinese court will agree.
Bottom Line: You want something from your Chinese manufacturer, you put it in your written contract. You are also usually better off with your contract being in Chinese so that if there is a dispute, your Chinese counterpart is not well positioned to claim it failed to understand and if you do need to go to court in China, you have the contract ready to go for that purpose.
Or you can listen to a whole bunch of excuses….

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Dan Harris

I am a founder of Harris Bricken, an international law firm with lawyers in Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, China and Spain.

I mostly represent companies doing business in emerging market countries. It has taken me many years to build my network and it takes constant communication and travel to maintain it. My work has been as varied as securing the release of two improperly held helicopters in Papua New Guinea, setting up a legal framework to move slag from Canada to Poland’s interior, overseeing hundreds of litigation and arbitration matters in Korea, helping someone avoid terrorism charges in Japan, and seizing fish product in China to collect on a debt.

I was named as one of only three Washington State Amazing Lawyers in International Law, I am AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory (its highest rating), I am rated 10.0 by AVVO.com (its highest rating), and I am a SuperLawyer.

I am a frequent writer and public speaker on doing business in Asia and I constantly travel between the United States and Asia. I most commonly speak on China law issues and I am the lead writer of the award winning China Law Blog (www.chinalawblog.com). Forbes Magazine, Fortune Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Investors Business Daily, Business Week, The National Law Journal, The Washington Post, The ABA Journal, The Economist, Newsweek, NPR, The New York Times and Inside Counsel have all interviewed me regarding various aspects of my international law practice.

I am licensed in Washington, Illinois, and Alaska.

In tandem with the international law team at my firm, I focus on setting up/registering companies overseas (via WFOEs, Rep Offices or Joint Ventures), drafting international contracts (NDAs, OEM Agreements, licensing, distribution, etc.), protecting IP (trademarks, trade secrets, copyrights and patents), and overseeing M&A transactions.