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Govt mulls bringing social networks under e-comm platform norms

The Ministry of Consumer Affairs (MCA) is planning to draft rules to protect consumers transacting over social network platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram.

All these platforms sell a large number of products and services to consumers. They are currently selling directly to consumers without any consumer grievance mechanism.

“Social network platforms will need to follow the same rules as other marketplaces and e-commerce websites,” said an ET report quoting a person aware of the matter.

Of late, the government portals and the national consumer helpline saw a rise in the number of complaints related to products sold on marketplaces attached to social networks.

“The consumer protection rules will be uniform across all platforms where consumers buy goods and services online,” an official told ET.

Due to the higher reach of social network platforms, they often are targeted by fraudsters.

Facebook and WhatsApp together have over 650 million users on their platforms. Instagram also has the second-largest user base in the country.

To completely protect consumers, these platforms also need to co-operate with the government, according to officials.

The government is also set to come up with detailed penalties section for e-commerce companies and vendors violating proposed consumer protection rules. The ministry is also working to broaden the scope of the rules with detail clarity to include online services.

The MCA had given the stakeholders time until December 2 to submit feedback for its Draft Consumer Protection (e-commerce) Rules.

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