E-commerce needs to step up info disclosure, join hands with govt & civil society: Report

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Published: August 29, 2019 4:07:09 PM

"While the growth trajectory of e-commerce in India is promising on many levels, it calls for concerted efforts between the government, industry and consumer groups like us in making policy frameworks that are inclusive and prescient," Sanyal said.

E-commerce, info disclosure, civil society, consent, privacy, industry newsThe report has highlighted growing concerns in the e-commerce sector such as information asymmetry, complexity of terms and conditions, unfair commercial practices, data privacy, and payment security, among others. (Reuters)

E-commerce players need to practise fair and transparent information disclosures while giving utmost importance to consumers’ consent, privacy and interest, a new study said on Thursday while listing out a detailed set of voluntary guidelines for all stakeholders involved in this industry. The suggested guidelines focus on various key issues such as important disclosures about sellers, products, payments and dispute resolution and also advocate greater proactive participation from the government and the civil society to sensitise online consumers about nuances of the business.

The report, titled ‘Consumer Empowerment: Fortifying Consumer Protection in E-commerce’, has been jointly prepared by public policy research and advisory firm, Chase India, and leading consumer protection group, Consumer Voice. It underlines need for concerted efforts between the government, industry and voluntary consumer groups to safeguard consumer rights on e-commerce platforms. The report assumes significance as Parliament recently passed the Consumer Protection Bill, 2019, a legislation that aims to modernise the current legislation on consumer protection to keep up with the changes in markets for ensuring fair, equitable and consistent outcomes for consumers.

The Department of Consumer Affairs has also released a set of guidelines with the objective of ensuring consumer protection in e-commerce. Ashim Sanyal, chief operating officer of Consumer Voice, said the recent policy interventions made by the government are a welcome step as the Bill and the new guidelines seek to address some of the concerns about this business. “While the growth trajectory of e-commerce in India is promising on many levels, it calls for concerted efforts between the government, industry and consumer groups like us in making policy frameworks that are inclusive and prescient,” Sanyal said.

The report has highlighted growing concerns in the e-commerce sector such as information asymmetry, complexity of terms and conditions, unfair commercial practices, data privacy, and payment security, among others. Chase India’s Group Business Director (Public Policy) Kaushal Mahan said the voluntary guidelines proposed in the report are in sync with the global best practices and the Indian government’s prerogatives and their adoption would contribute towards consumer empowerment.

According to various estimates, the e-commerce sector in India is projected to cross USD 103 billion by 2020 with an annual growth rate of 41 per cent. Anchored on accelerating internet penetration and smartphone sales, e-commerce in India is set to expand and expected to surpass the US to become the second largest e-commerce market in the world, after China, by 2034, the report said. Overall, online shoppers in India are expected to reach 220 million in numbers by 2025, it added.

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