Fresh from his controversial bust-up with ex-Yahoo boss Carol Bartz, Jack Ma has another fight on his hands. This time it’s with users of his popular Taobao Mall service (see WiC94 for more on Taobao’s history and growth). Traders who use the internet shopping site to sell their goods are furious that Taobao Mall has upped its annual membership fees from Rmb6,000 to between Rmb30,000 and Rmb60,000 ($9,400). Small business owners have protested at the hike by disrupting the website’s services. Thousands bought goods from bigger retailers and then asked for refunds. Apart from the inconvenience, the bigger shops complained the tactic was a form of sabotage since a high refund rate “lowers the online rankings of the affected shops,” reports the South China Morning Post. The disruption was serious enough for the Ministry of Commerce to ask Taobao Mall to listen to the grievances of its angry users. Owned by Alibaba Group, Xinhua says Taobao Mall now has 400 million registered users, and hosts 50,000 shops selling anything from clothes to household appliances.
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