Govt framing rules to make etailers accountable for products sold and consumer data

Consumer Affair Ministry

Consumer Affair Ministry is conducting surveys to draft new rules for e-commerce firms to make them more accountable for products sold on their platforms and the use of consumer data.

The ministry, to frame the Consumer Protection Act 2018, is taking inputs through surveys from consumers as well as from the industries to arrive at balance rules.

In this regard, the Department of Consumer Affairs has sent a set of questions to companies issued by the Indian Institute of Public Administration, outlined ET report. The survey seeks to know the nature of consumer complaints, steps being taken on protecting consumer data and privacy, and policies needed to regulate the sector.

The consumer affairs ministry is also running a survey through social media platform LocalCircles, which has 58k consumers connected within its community. It’s also working on creating an online community between sellers and firms to initiate discussions on the regulations.

Besides, the govt is also assessing wholesale and retail prices of essentials commodities through 101 Price Collection Centres (State Food and Civil Supplies Departments) by asking consumers to share the prices in their regions.

Last month, the industry members through FICCI in a letter had said that insight on the National Consumer Helpline -IIPA (Indian Institute of Public Administration) survey on consumer grievance redressal and its findings for Government and Industry discussions and action road-map are still awaited by e-commerce companies.

All key industry players have responded to NCH questionnaire and if not closed yet, the industry would be glad to jointly work with NCH on developing the report and analysis, to draw fair outcomes and learnings.

After the Consumer Protection Act, 2018, e-commerce companies could be required to register themselves with the consumer affairs department and would also have to disclose their business details and seller agreements.

The companies would have to disclose the intention and applications of consumer data that they store. They will also have to be answerable to whether the companies take the consent of consumers before sharing their details with other parties.

India e-commerce market is estimated to be worth $33 billion. Of late, the industry is going through policy change as the govt is trying to regulate it.

Earlier, the consumer affairs ministry had made the amendments in this regard to the Legal Metrology (packaged commodities) Rules in June 2017. According to the amendments, goods displayed by the seller on e-commerce platform should contain declarations required under the rules.

Along with MRP, the companies were asked to display the manufacturing date, expiry date, net quantity, country of origin and consumer care details on the label from January this year.

In 2016, the All India Online Vendors’ Association (AIOVA), a group of 2,000 sellers on various online platforms, wrote a letter to the Competition Commission of India (CCI). The letter complaint that Flipkart’s WS Retail and Amazon’s Cloudtail were indulged in predatory pricing and discounting when selling their private label products, which was destroying the business of smaller rivals and online sellers.

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