China introduces real-name verification for parcel deliveries

Jing Gao

 

The Chinese Ministry of Public Security will tighten postal security measures by requiring real-name registration for all parcel senders, effective immediately.

This means from now on, people in China who want to mail packages will be asked for their government-issued photo IDs, in addition to having their packages inspected before packages can be sealed.

All envelopes and parcels, upon departure and arrival, must also go through an X-ray machine, which not all courier services are equipped with.

The authorities explained that the new requirements will thwart and prevent hazards and crime, including the mailing of bombs and toxic chemicals, drug trafficking, and dissemination of pornography.

 

However, many working in the delivery industry have expressed concern that the measures, if enforced strictly, may significantly slow down the parcel-handling process and cause delays for deliveries.

Xu Dingxin, an industry observer, told National Business Daily that on average, a courier service dispatches more than 100,000 parcels daily in areas like Beijing, Shanghai and the coastal province of Zhejiang. Xu believes it is unrealistic verifying sender identification for every parcel and inspecting packages, if deliveries are to be completed on time.

“Especially during the Double-11 Festival, when the number of orders skyrockets.” Xu explained.

The Double-11 Festival takes place every year on November 11 and is regarded as the Chinese equivalent of Cyber Monday. The online shopping orgy was first popularized by Alibaba-owned Taobao.com, China’s largest ecommerce site. Last year, Alibaba reported 57.1 billion RMB, or 9.3 billion USD, in sales during the 24-hour frenzy, setting a new Guinness record. More than two million couriers delivered 586 million packages during the sale period.

There is also anxiety over identity theft and compromised privacy in the event that a sender’s personal information and specifics about their request, fall into the wrong hands.

The microblogging site Sina Weibo is abuzz with questions: “(With real-name registration), delivery guys will know exactly who we are and where we live. What will happen then?”

“A package bearing our personal info will be dealt with by so many people down the road. Doesn’t that mean we are pretty much running naked in broad daylight?”  

Shoppers also worry that their penchants and habits may be exposed during X-ray scrutiny. Sex toys and adult products have enjoyed huge popularity on ecommerce sites in China mostly because of the ease of availability and great secrecy that online shopping offers. Consumers are concerned that so many people, from the postal office associate, to workers at various distribution centers, to the person that knocks on your door and asks you to sign, will be privy to the personal contents of packages.

Shipping costs will also go up. Extra hiring and added compliance costs at courier services are expected for additional security clearance. Couriers will need to buy 10,000 RMB ID card scanners. The price for an X-ray machine is at least 200,000 RMB. All these expenses will be felt on the consumer end.

“Please answer me: why are there still so many scams and fraudsters despite real-name verification for cellphone sim cards? Why are there still so many ticket scalpers and speculators despite real-name verification for ticket purchases. If you can answer me that, then we can talk about real-name verification for deliveries,” one Weibo user wrote.

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Jing Gao

Jing founded her own blog Ministry of Tofu and worked with Los Angeles Times, Greenpeace and LinkAsia. She graduated with a master's degree in Journalism from the University of Illinois.

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