Consumer protection: Govt tightens scrutiny of sellers on e-commerce platforms like Amazon, Flipkart

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July 25, 2020 4:30 AM

All electronic retailers offering goods and services to Indian consumers, whether registered in India or overseas, will have to honour the rules, failing which strict penal action will be initiated, food and consumer affairs minister Ram Vilas Paswan had said in a video-conference on Monday.

Separately, the industry ministry, too, is working on an e-commerce policy, which is expected to focus on rules governing and promoting e-commerce in general.

The government has notified new consumer protection rules, mandating that sellers on e-commerce platforms like Amazon and Flipkart provide key details of their goods and services, including the country of origin, name and other details of importer and guarantees related to the genuineness of their products.

The Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020, notified by the consumer affairs ministry, are aimed at hardening a crackdown on substandard imported products, mainly from China, and enabling consumers to make informed choices on online purchases. More importantly, the rules have been framed to protect consumers’ interests.

Separately, the industry ministry, too, is working on an e-commerce policy, which is expected to focus on rules governing and promoting e-commerce in general.

The rules are applicable to all goods and services sold under a digital or electronic platform through both the marketplace and inventory-led models. Online retailers are instructed to facilitate easy returns, address customer complaints proactively and avoid discriminating against merchants on their platforms, among others.

All electronic retailers offering goods and services to Indian consumers, whether registered in India or overseas, will have to honour the rules, failing which strict penal action will be initiated, food and consumer affairs minister Ram Vilas Paswan had said in a video-conference on Monday.

In a move aimed at discouraging sale of low-grade products by unscrupulous players, including those from China, the seller will have to provide to the e-commerce platforms (Amazon, Flipkart, etc) its legal name, principal geographic address of its headquarters and all branches, the name and details of its website, its e-mail address, customer care contact details such as fax, landline, and mobile numbers, and where applicable, its GSTIN and PAN details.

A Snapdeal spokesperson said: “The rules will enhance protection for online buyers in India. They also clarify the distinct scope of responsibilities between the marketplace platforms and the sellers on the marketplaces.”

Prescribing several “duties of sellers on marketplace”, the ministry said, “No seller offering goods or services through a marketplace e-commerce entity shall refuse to take back goods, or withdraw or discontinue services purchased or agreed to be purchased, or refuse to refund consideration, if paid, if such goods or services are defective, deficient or spurious, or if the goods or services are not of the characteristics or features as advertised or as agreed to, or if such goods or services are delivered late from the stated delivery schedule.”

The rules also provide that sellers must have a prior written contract with the respective e-commerce entity in order to undertake or solicit such sale or offer. They have to appoint a grievance officer for consumer grievance redressal and ensure that the grievance officer acknowledges the receipt of any consumer complaint within forty-eight hours and redresses the complaint within one month from the date of receipt of the complaint. Also, they have to ensure that the advertisements for marketing of goods or services are consistent with the actual characteristics, access and usage conditions of such goods or services.

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