The Ministry of Consumer Affairs has issued Draft e-Commerce Guidelines for Consumer Protection, 2018 (“Guidelines”) to protect the interests of the consumers by preventing fraud, unfair trade practices and protecting the legitimate rights and interests of consumers.
Comments and suggestions are invited from stakeholders on the draft and must be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org by 16th September, 2019.
The applicability of the draft Guidelines ranges from Business-to-Consumer e-Commerce, including goods and services, inclusive of digital contents products.
We will now discuss some important aspects of the proposed Guidelines.
General Conditions e-Commerce business must comply with
Once the Guidelines are published in the Official Gazette, every e-Commerce entity carrying out or intending to carry out e-Commerce business in India must within 90 days comply with the following set of conditions to conduct of e-Commerce business:
- Be a registered legal entity under the laws of India;
- Submit a self-declaration to the Department of Consumer Affairs stating that it is in compliance with these Guidelines;
- Ensure that the promoter or key management personnel has not been convicted of any criminal offence punishable with imprisonment in last 5 years;
- Comply with the provisions of Information Technology (Intermediaries guidelines) Rules, 2011.
- Facilitate payment for sale in conformity with the guidelines of the Reserve Bank of India.
- Display on its website details about the sellers.
Dos and Don’ts for -commerce entities
- Ensure clarity by displaying terms of contract between e-Commerce entity and the seller relating to return, refund, exchange, warranty / guarantee, delivery / shipment, mode of payments, grievance redressal mechanism etc. to enable consumers to make informed decisions.
- Ensure that the advertisements for marketing of goods or services are consistent with the actual characteristics, access and usage conditions of such of goods or services;
- Mention safety and health care information of the goods and service advertised for sale
- Provide information on available payment methods; the security of those payment methods, how to use those methods; how to cancel regular payments under those methods; charge back options and any costs applicable to those payment methods;
- Ensure that personally identifiable information of customers are protected, and that such data collection and storage and use comply with provisions of the Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008.
- Accept return of goods if delivered late from the stated delivery schedule or delivery of defective, wrong or spurious products, and/or not of the characteristics/features as advertised;
- All payments towards accepted refund requests of the customers to be in effect within a period of maximum of 14 days.
- If the e-commerce entity is informed by the consumer or comes to know by itself or through another source about any counterfeit product being sold on its platform, and is satisfied after due diligence, it will have to notify the seller and if the seller is unable to provide any evidence that the product is genuine, it will take down the said listing and notify the consumers of the same.
- If the e-commerce entity has given an assurance vouching for the authenticity of the goods sold on its market place – or if it guarantees that goods are authentic then it will be held guilty of contributory or secondary liability if the goods are not of the guaranteed standard.
- Directly or indirectly influence the price of the goods or services.
- Adopt any trade practice which for the purpose of promoting the sale, use or supply of any goods or for the provision of any service, or composite supply is an unfair methods deceptive practice that may influence transactional decisions of consumers in relation to products and services.
- Falsely represent themselves as consumers or post reviews about goods and services in their name or misrepresent or exaggerate the quality or the features of goods and services.
The Liabilities of Sellers selling their products / services using the medium of e-commerce entities:
- Have prior written contract with the respective e-Commerce entity in order to undertake or solicit such sale or offer;
- Provide all information required to be provided either by law or by any other mandatory regime for disclosing contractual information and compliance with that regime will be treated as sufficient;
- 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;
- Comply with mandatory display requirements as per Legal Metrology (amendment) Rules 2017 for pre-packaged commodities;
- Provide mandatory safety and health care warnings and shelf life that a consumer would get at any physical point of sale;
- Provide fair and reasonable, delivery terms, or to directly reference the shipping policy.
- Be responsible for any warranty/guarantee obligation of goods and services sold.
- Be upfront about how exchange, returns and refund process works, and who bares the costs of return shipping.
What e-Commerce entities need to have in place with regard to Consumer Grievance Redressal Mechanism?
- Publish on its website the name of the Grievance Officer and his contact details as well as mechanism by which users can notify their complaints about products and services availed through their web site.
- The Grievance Officer shall redress the complaints within one month from the date of receipt of complaint.
- Provide facility to consumers to register their complaints over phone, email or website and to provide complaint number for tracking the complaint;
- Provide consumers with transparent and effective consumer protection that is not less than the level of protection offered in other forms of commerce;
- Provide mechanism/system to converge with National Consumer Helpline in grievance redress process.
Source: Ministry of Consumer Affairs