Amid mounting instances of "hallmarked" gold jewellery fraud, the Indian Association of Hallmarking Centres (IAHC) today suggested that the government hold jewellers as accountable as the certification firm when a jewellery item fails a test of gold purity standards.
Hallmarking of gold, which is voluntary in nature at present, is a purity certification of the precious metal. The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), under the aegis of the Consumer Affairs Ministry, is encouraging this certification.
In a representation to Consumer Affairs Minister K V Thomas, IAHC Committee Secretary James Jose pointed out: "On hallmarked jewellery, at the jewellery shop or at the artisans workshop, mix and match of lower caratage items are taking place, which makes that jewellery spurious."
"When BIS takes samples from jewellery shops for retesting, and if it fails, the hallmarking centres are taken for task for resultant fraud and not the jewellers."
Against this background, the association recommended, "The quality monitoring should be made balanced so that even the jeweller is made accountable whenever a jewellery item fails the test of hallmarking purity."
It also demanded that jewellers endorse their samples' purity.
Over 170 hallmarking centres have been recognised in the country by BIS to provide services for small jewellers. So far, the BIS has issued 9,005 licences to gold jewellers.
Pointing out instances of the BIS wrongly punishing the hallmarking centres for malpractices done by jewellers on hallmarked items, IAHC said, "In the absence of market surveillance on hallmarked jewellery, many jewellers are patronising duplicate hallmarking units and the hallmarking scheme is misused to make more money."
The association suggested that the government set up a new agency for monitoring and outsourcing of market samples and publish the test results.
To protect consumers, Cabinet has already cleared a proposal to make hallmarking of gold mandatory by approving amendments to the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) Act, 1986.
The ministry plans to move the BIS Amendment Bill in the Budget Session of Parliament.