What If You Break Something While Shopping?

Now Shenzhen   |   February 23, 2024

CHINA LAW 101: Video 88

This is the 18th video of the Living In China Chapter.


To watch the video, click the image above.

To find the answer, let us turn to the provisions of the Civil Code. According to Article 1,184, property losses should be calculated based on the market price at the time of the loss or by other reasonable methods. This means that neither the selling price nor the purchase price is necessarily the appropriate amount of compensation. Two factors need to be considered: the time of the damage and the general market price.

It is important to note that this principle applies not only to damaged goods but also to general property damage. The goal is to determine the actual loss suffered by the injured party. In cases where there is no clear market price for the damaged item, such as antique paintings or used second-hand goods, the value needs to be determined through judicial appraisal.

The purpose of considering the market price or other reasonable methods is to adapt to the complex situations of property damage that can occur in reality. For example, in some cases, the price of similar products can be used as the measure of loss, or the profits gained by the infringer can be taken into account. The aim is to find a fair and reasonable assessment of the actual loss suffered.


Let me present a case to illustrate these principles. Imagine a situation where a person, let's call them John, is shopping in a supermarket. While reaching for a bottle of wine on the bottom shelf, John accidentally triggers the anti-theft mechanism, causing two adjacent bottles to fall and break. The supermarket then demands compensation of 1700 RMB.

Upon examination, the court finds that the supermarket had placed the wine bottles with anti-theft mechanisms on the bottom shelf, making it difficult for consumers to observe their placement and increasing the risk of damage. The design of the anti-theft mechanism itself was flawed, with coils wrapped around the bottles and insufficient space between them. These factors contributed to the accident. Therefore, the court holds the supermarket primarily responsible for the damages.

However, the court also considers the actions of John. As a consumer, John had a responsibility to exercise caution when handling fragile items and to be aware of the surroundings. In this case, John failed to take sufficient care in observing the placement of the bottles and ensuring the safety of adjacent items. As a result, the court assigns John secondary responsibility for the damages.


In the end, the court determines that John should compensate the supermarket for its economic losses, but the amount is reduced to 500 only reflect the shared responsibility of both parties.

This case highlights the practical application of the principles I have discussed. When there are safety hazards in the display of goods that lead to damage caused by consumers' ordinary negligence, the store or operator bears the primary responsibility, while the consumer assumes secondary responsibility.

In conclusion, it is essential to understand that the determination of compensation in cases of damaged goods is not as straightforward as relying solely on the selling price or purchase price. The market price at the time of the loss and other reasonable methods must be considered. This ensures a fair and just resolution that takes into account the specific circumstances of each case.