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No more ‘Steal’ in E-commerce: Govt drafts New E-commerce Rules

It is often said that online shopping brings convenience to home, but the reality seems in the opposite direction where e-commerce entities steal consumers with dubious quality goods charged at huge prices. Also, there have been several instances, where consumers are duped in the name of deep discounts and carnival sales by big e-commerce giants.

For a number of hardships faced by consumers from these e-com sellers, the Indian government through its Department of Consumer Affairs has built a standard code that will abide by these e-com entities to follow some special norms required for the protection of consumer rights and interest.

The drafted rules of the department will way in through the Consumer Protection (e-Commerce) Guidelines, 2019 and have to be occupied by all e-commerce entities within 90 days of their publication in the Official gazette.

#1. Carrying e-Commerce business:

Earlier, there were no standards for doing e-commerce, nor anyone required to obtain any license to sell online which altogether resulted in a list of scams/frauds. With the proposed draft, e-commerce will certainly look for consumer needs and quality services.

The e-commerce rules in the draft mandates e-commerce sellers to submit legal declarations and restrict convicts from membership to e-commerce. The Rules commands entities:

  • To submit a self-declaration stating compliance with the provided e-commerce rules.
  • To comply with the provisions of the IT (Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines)) Rules, 2011.
  • To restrict the entry of persons in e-commerce business convicted under criminal offenses or imprisoned under any legal suit.
  • To publish all related details of business about its founders, legal name, policies, etc on their e-commerce portal website along with confirming their payment standards with RBI (Reserve Bank of India).

#2. Display policies and advertisement:

Now what prevails in the e-commerce industry is fake advertisements and attention-seeking from consumers. The draft stops e-commerce entities to adopt any unfair sales practices, deceptive promotion tactics or false price claims to sell their products.

The Code also instruct entities to:

  • Display their terms of business related to return, exchange, refund, warranty, guarantee, shipments, payment modes available and the redressal mechanism adopted by them on the e-commerce platform.
  • Accept the returned goods without putting the buyer into any problem, if any default is made in the delivery of goods or in placing the right impression of the product in the eyes of the buyer.

#3. Security, Privacy and Payments:

The draft is very particular in saying for the security, privacy of consumers and their payment modes. It commands the e-commerce entities to display their money back, payment retrieval policies and provide a refund on all accepted refund requests within 14 days.

The rules there in the draft keep an eye on the twin make of the products and instruct e-commerce entities to take down such activities or involved sellers from their websites.

Considering the consumer aspect, the rules guide e-commerce entities to :

  • Payback the accepted amounts to buyers in cases of refunds/failed delivery or cancellations within 14 days.
  • Take serious steps over spurious products being sold on their platforms and notify a policy for it to all the sellers registered with them.

#4. Sellers to be liable:

Not negotiating the term on the price of goods as small or big, the draft clearly provides for all monetary and service claims that a consumer can make from an e-commerce seller.

The e-commerce rules in the draft, prescribes for liability of e-commerce sellers to arise in case – the seller places any sale contract or offer with the e-commerce entity or on its any other platform and if he does not provide all sensible information of the product or service, falls back in providing break up of product pricing /related health warnings/ warranties/ guarantees or exchange or refund policies.

With the said rules, an e-commerce seller will also be :

  • Liable to publish a break up of the price of the product, showing all incidental charges involved in the sale including postal, taxes, handling, etc.
  • Liable to comply with provisions of Legal Metrology (Amendment) Rules 2017 for pre-packaged goods.

#5 Points for Consumer grievances:

How a consumer can break the ice in the rules is a thought to understand. The e-commerce rules in the draft suggest each e-commerce entity become very expressive and be alerted in listening to their consumer grievances.

The rules often place a requirement on the e-commerce entities to opt for a grievances system where a Grievance officer should be there to handle all queries within a timeline of one month from the date of receipt of the complaint. The queries raised by consumers will have to be dealt with by e-commerce entities by providing them multiple contacts and complaint options. Without pre-defining a support system for consumers, no entity shall be allowed to operate a business in the e-commerce world.

To Conclude :

The draft of e-commerce rules will impart accountability and fair market play for the e-commerce entities. It will impose a number of liabilities on the e-commerce entities, where their chances of troublemaking for the consumer will almost become negligible.

Reference links: http://consumeraffairs.nic.in/DraftRule/Draft%20e-commerce%20Rules.docx

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