To protect the interest of online shoppers, the Department of Consumer Affairs has released draft guidelines on e-commerce that state that an e-commerce entity cannot directly or indirectly influence the price of the goods or services. The draft ‘e-commerce guidelines for consumer protection 2019,’ which adds that e-commerce firms need to ensure that personally identifiable information of customers is protected, is open for stakeholder comments for 45 days or till September 16, 2019.
- These are issued as guiding principles for e-commerce business for preventing fraud, unfair trade practices and protecting the legitimate rights and interests of consumers. These guidelines apply to business-to-consumer e-commerce, including goods and services.
- It added that every e-commerce entity needs to publish the name and contact details of the grievance officer on their website along with the mechanism by which users can lodge their complaints.
- As per the draft, an e-commerce firm cannot falsely represent themselves as consumers or post reviews about goods and services in their name.
- Besides, it proposed to make it mandatory for firms to display terms of contract with the seller relating to return, refund, exchange, warranty/guarantee, delivery/shipment, mode of payments and grievance redressal mechanism to enable consumers to make informed decisions.
- The draft also proposes that once an e-commerce firm comes to know about any counterfeit product, and if the seller is unable to provide any evidence that the product is genuine, the firm needs to take down the listing and notify the consumers of the same.
- To protect consumers' interest, the Centre has proposed guidelines for e-commerce firms that entail a 14-day deadline to effect refund request, mandate e-tailers to display details of sellers supplying goods and services on their websites and moot the procedure to resolve consumer complaints.
- The consumer affairs ministry has sought views of stakeholders on the draft guidelines on e-commerce by September 16.
- The government is planning to come out with a national e-commerce policy to facilitate achieving holistic growth of the sector.
- Among key guidelines, the e-commerce companies will also be required to ensure that personally identifiable information of customers are protected.
- Such data collection and storage and use comply with provisions of the Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008. That apart, e-commerce firms should be a registered legal entity under Indian laws and should submit a self-declaration to the ministry stating that it is conforming with guidelines.
- The proposed rules outlined that a promoter or key management personnel should not have been convicted of any criminal offence punishable with five years imprisonment.
- The companies should also comply with the provisions of IT Rules, 2011. They are also required to display on their websites details about sellers supplying goods and services.
- To ensure transparency in dealing, the companies are required to display terms of contract between them and the seller to enable consumers to make informed decisions.
- According to a February 2019 Morgan Stanley report, India is adding one Internet user every three seconds and the e-commerce sector in India is estimated to reach USD 230 billion by 2028, accounting for 10 per cent of India's retail.