The draft rules come three months after the consumer protection guidelines were issued by the Department of Consumer Affairs and nine months after the draft e-commerce policy was brought out by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade.
Ahead of the proposed e-commerce policy that is likely to come out next year, the government has once again reiterated guidelines for e-commerce companies like Amazon, Flipkart etc. doing business in India. The draft Consumer Protection (e-commerce) Rules, 2019, which the Department of Consumer Affairs came out with on Monday, said that e-commerce companies should not directly or indirectly influence the price of products, adopting methods that may influence ‘transactional’ decision of customers, false reviews, etc and that they should display contract terms between them and their sellers with respect to returns, refunds, exchange, delivery, payments, grievance redressal etc.
The department has invited comments from industry stakeholders till December 2, 2019. The draft rules along with consumer protection guidelines for e-commerce companies issued by the department in August this year and the draft e-commerce policy brought out by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade in February this year broadly looks at ensuring legitimate business practices by e-commerce players related to the pricing of goods, payment information, sellers’ details, storage and use of customer data, counterfeit products etc.
“Even as the e-commerce guidelines have been tried and followed by the large portals such as Amazon and Flipkart however there are many other new and existing e-commerce marketplaces,” Arnav Gupta, an analyst at Forrester had told Financial Express Online.
Government’s continuous stress on ensuring business compliance comes amid allegations of offline businesses and traders against Amazon and Flipkart claiming uneven level playing field due to deep discounting and predatory pricing of products by the two companies. Traders’ body CAIT had also written to commerce minister Piyush Goyal, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier seeking their attention in the matter. However, Amazon and Flipkart had repeatedly claimed conformity with the current e-commerce rules along with boosting employment and growth for their seller communities and the economy at large.
The latest draft rules also said that e-commerce sellers should display single-figure total and break up price for the goods or service that includes all compulsory charges such as delivery, postage, taxes and handling and conveyance charges. It also said that sellers should provide mandatory safety and health care warnings and shelf life that a consumer would get at any physical point of sale.