Monday 11 November 2019

Draft rules issued to bring deep discounts by e-tailers under govt scrutiny

Draft rules issued to bring deep discounts by e-tailers under govt scrutiny NEW DELHI: The consumer affairs ministry on Monday come out with a set of draft rules that will bring deep discounts, one of the biggest driving forces of the e-commerce business, under scrutiny.

The Consumer Protection (e-commerce) Rules under Consumer Protection Act prohibits e-tailers from “directly or indirectly influencing the price of the goods or services” or indulge in any business practice that can influence transactional decisions of consumers.

The draft rules also specify that no e-commerce firm will falsely represent themselves as consumers or post reviews about good and services in their name or misrepresent or exaggerate the quality or the features of goods and services.

The ministry has proposed that each e-commerce entity will have to register themselves within 90 days of the notification of the rules and must ensure that the promoter or key management personnel have not been convicted of any criminal offence punishable with imprisonment in last five years by any court. Moreover, they will have to display details of the sellers including the identity of their business, legal name, principal geographic address, name of the website, e-mail address and other contact details on the website.

According to the proposed rules, every e-tailer firm will have to publish on its website the name of the grievance officer and his contact details and the mechanism by which users can notify their complaints. The grievance officer shall redress the complaints within one month. The ministry said the companies will have to provide the facility to consumers to register their complaints about phone, e-mail and shall provide complaint number for tracking the complaint.

Officials said since protecting the interest of consumers is the main task of the ministry, the rules will primarily focus on how companies can’t take them for a ride. So, the e-commerce firms will have to display the terms of the contract between them and the seller relating to “return, refund, exchange, warranty/ guarantee, delivery/ shipment, mode of payments, grievance redressal mechanism to enable consumers to make informed decisions.”

The proposed rules also say that the e-commerce firm will have to accept the return of goods if delivered late from the stated delivery schedule or delivery of defective, wrong or spurious products, and does not conform to the characteristics/ features advertised. It also stipulates that refund requests have to be honoured within 14 days.

The rules prohibit unfair advertising by any e-commerce entity and to ensure that the advertisements are consistent with the actual characteristics of goods. It also puts the onus of protecting “personally identifiable information” of a consumer on the e-commerce platform.

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