The ministry has targetted to implement the Consumer Protection Act by December and already sought feedback from the stakeholders by September 15 on the draft guidelines.
The government has decided to make the draft e-commerce guidelines mandatory under the new Consumer Protection Act, in which stringent action has been prescribed against violators. The proposed guidelines for e-commerce firms 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.
As per the draft guidelines on e-commerce, the companies are required to submit a self-declaration to the ministry stating that they are conforming with the guidelines. Among other key guidelines, the e-commerce companies will also be required to ensure that personally identifiable information of customers are protected and should not directly or indirectly influence the price of the goods or services and ‘maintain a level playing field.’
“The draft guidelines on e-commerce will be made part of the rules under the new Consumer Protection law. Once included under rules, the guidelines become mandatory,” consumer affairs minister Ram Vilas Paswan told reporters. He discussed the guidelines with some MPs to address their concerns as his ministry officials are currently in the process of drafting the rules to implement the law.
The ministry has targetted to implement the Consumer Protection Act by December and already sought feedback from the stakeholders by September 15 on the draft guidelines. “Every MP’s view was that e-commerce guidelines should be incorporated as part of the rules under the new law. We are accepting their suggestion,” Paswan said.
According to the consumer affairs secretary Avinash K Srivastava, the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) — which will be established to promote, protect and enforce consumer rights under the new law — will take action against violating e-commerce firms. “Consumer courts too have powers,” he said.
The Consumer Protection Bill 2019, passed recently in Parliament, seeks to establish CCPA and also envisages simplified dispute resolution process, deals with ‘product liability’ and provides for stiff punishment to check misleading ads and adulteration.
The e-commerce sector in India has been witnessing an explosive growth fuelled by increase in the number of online users, growing penetration of smartphones and the rising popularity of social media platforms. 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 $230 billion by 2028, accounting for 10% of India’s retail market.