Alibaba and the 2,236 thieves: China’s top e-commerce firm fights to win back customers’ trust

The founders of eBay used to say that their real accomplishment was neither their clever technology nor the marketplace they created. Rather, it was to build trust between people who had never met.Alibaba, China’s leading e-commerce platform, faces the same challenge, but more so. It operates in a country where fraud is rife. And it has grown at a dizzying pace: 56m people use its business-to-business website, it claims, and 370m use Taobao, its online mall. This week it ran into trouble. On February 21st, in a filing with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, Alibaba admitted that it had granted “gold” status (a mark of supposed integrity) to 2,236 dealers who it says subsequently defrauded buyers.

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