Government Unveils Draft E-Commerce Standards, Retail News, ET Retail


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New Delhi: To protect the interests of consumers, the Center has proposed guidelines for e-commerce businesses that allow a 14-day time frame to file a refund request, require online merchants to display contact details for sellers providing goods and services on their websites and consumer complaints procedure. The Ministry of Consumer Affairs has sought feedback from stakeholders on the draft e-commerce guidelines by September 16.

Meanwhile, the government plans to come up with a national e-commerce policy to facilitate the overall growth of the sector.

Among the key guidelines, e-commerce companies will also be required to ensure that customers’ personally identifiable information is protected.

“This collection, storage and use of data is in accordance with the provisions of the 2008 Information Technology (Amendment) Act,” the ministry said.

Other than that, e-commerce businesses should be a registered legal entity under Indian laws and should submit a self-declaration to the ministry stating that they are complying with the guidelines.

The proposed rules emphasized that a promoter or key executive should not have been convicted of a criminal offense punishable by up to five years in prison.

Businesses must also comply with the provisions of the IT Rules 2011. They are also required to post information on their websites about vendors providing goods and services.

The industry said it was still studying the broad outlines of the guidelines.

“We are evaluating the draft guidelines and look forward to participating in the deliberations to help finalize an operational framework,” a Snapdeal spokesperson said in a statement.

The spokesperson said this would allow the industry to offer a high level of consumer protection at every stage of an e-commerce transaction.

Flipkart and the Amazon India spokesperson said the company is still reviewing the draft guidelines.

LocalCircles social community founder Sachin Taparia said consumers are currently struggling to hold e-commerce businesses accountable for counterfeit products as platforms do not disclose seller details or terms and conditions. . These guidelines, if implemented, will change that.

“The key areas that have been covered by the rules include preventing price influences, combating counterfeiting, improving the integrity of reviews as well as increasing the transparency of conditions that e-commerce has. with sellers and the disclosure of information about sellers, ”he added.

The draft guidelines state that e-commerce companies must not directly or indirectly influence the price of goods or services and “maintain a level playing field”.

Businesses should not adopt unfair methods, falsely portray themselves as consumers, publish reviews of goods and services on their behalf, or exaggerate the quality of goods and services.

To ensure the transparency of transactions, companies are required to display the terms of the contract between themselves and the seller in order to allow consumers to make informed decisions.

They must also mention the safety and health information of the goods and services advertised for sale and give information on the methods of payment.

Companies are required to make all payments related to accepted customer refund requests within a maximum of 14 days.

Regarding seller liability, the standards proposed that sellers display the total price as well as the retail price of goods or services, including charges such as delivery, shipping and taxes.

They must also comply with the mandatory display requirements in accordance with the 2017 Legal Metrology (Amendment) Rules for prepackaged products.

They should also provide mandatory safety and health care warnings and shelf life that a consumer would get at any physical point of sale. These companies are also offered to be held liable for any warranty / guarantee obligation for the goods and services sold.

The draft guidelines provided for each e-commerce entity to publish on its website the name of the grievance officer and contact details as well as the mechanism by which users can notify their complaints about products and services. The grievance officer must resolve complaints within one month of the date of receipt of the complaint, he said.

The move comes even as the government tightened standards for e-commerce companies with foreign investment earlier this year.

The e-commerce sector in India has experienced explosive growth fueled by the increase in the number of online users, the growing penetration of smartphones and the growing popularity of social media platforms.

According to a Morgan Stanley report from February 2019, India adds one Internet user every three seconds and India’s e-commerce sector is expected to reach $ 230 billion by 2028, accounting for 10% of Indian retail trade.

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