To protect the consumers from unfair trade practices and to address their concerns, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution on July 23, 2020 notified the Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020. The E-commerce Rules have primarily been formulated with the objective to regulate the E-commerce sector in India and protect consumers from unfair trade practices on such platforms.
The Rules are applicable to all goods and services bought or sold over digital or electronic network including digital products; all models of e-commerce, including marketplace and inventory models of ecommerce; all e-commerce retail, including multi-channel single brand retailers and single brand retailers in single or multiple formats; and all forms of unfair trade practices across all models of E-commerce.
Key Highlights of the Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020
A conspectus of some of the key provisions of the E-commerce Rules are enumerated as under:
- Duties of E-commerce entities
The E-commerce Rules specify certain duties which the E-commerce entities are required to abide by. The duties inter alia include the following–
- Every E-commerce entity shall provide the following information on its platform-
- legal name of the E-commerce entity;
- principal geographic address of its headquarters and all branches;
- name and details of its website; and
- contact details like e-mail address, fax, landline and mobile numbers of customer care as well as of grievance officer.
- Every E-commerce entity shall establish a grievance redressal mechanism and appoint a grievance officer for consumer grievance redressal, and display the name, contact details, and designation of such officer on its website. The grievance officer is required to acknowledge the receipt of consumer complaints within forty-eight hours and redresses the complaint within one month from the date of receipt of the complaint.
- While offering any imported goods and services to the consumers, an E-commerce entity must mention the name and details of the importer. (Also read: Country of Origin to be specified on E-commerce websites
- No E-commerce entity shall impose cancellation charges on consumers unnecessarily.
- An E-commerce entity cannot record the consent of the consumer to purchase any good or service automatically, it must be expressed through an explicit and affirmative action.
- Manipulation of the price of goods and services so as to gain unreasonable profit from consumers shall not be entertained.
- Liabilities of marketplace E-commerce entities
There are certain conditions which are expected to be fulfilled by marketplace E-commerce entities which inter alia include as under-
- A market place E-commerce entity must ensure that descriptions, images, and other content pertaining to goods or services on their platform is precise and relates directly with the appearance, nature, quality and other general features of such good or service.
- Every marketplace entity shall enable the consumers to make informed decisions by providing the following – details about the sellers offering goods and services, including the name of their business, whether registered or not, their geographic address, customer care number, any rating or other aggregated feedback about such seller; – ticket number for each complaint from which the consumer can track the status of complaint; – information relating to return, refund, exchange, warranty and guarantee, delivery and shipment, modes of payment, and grievance redressal mechanism; -information on all the available payment methods; – a description explaining the ranking of the goods in simple and intelligible manner.
- Every market place entity shall also include in its terms and conditions a description of any different treatment which it gives to goods or services or sellers of the same category, if any.
- Duties of sellers on marketplace
- No seller shall falsely present itself as a consumer and post fake reviews about the goods and services or about the features or qualities of those goods and services.
- No seller shall refuse to take back goods, or withdraw or discontinue services purchased or agreed to be purchased, or refuse to refund if the goods or services provided by the seller are defective or do not match the qualities or features mentioned by the seller on the website or if they are delivered later than the expected delivery date.
- Duties and liabilities of inventory e-commerce entities
Every inventory E-commerce entity shall provide the following information-
- Accurate information related to return, refund, exchange, warranty and guarantee, delivery and shipment, cost of return shipping, mode of payments, grievance redressal mechanism, all mandatory notices and information required by applicable laws, display single figure total along with the break-up price and ticket number for each complaint from which the consumer can track the status of complaint.
- If any inventory E-commerce entity vouches for the authenticity of goods or services sold by it then shall bear appropriate liability in any action related to the authenticity of such good or service.
The E-commerce sector has witnessed an unprecedented growth in the recent years, as people are relying on online shopping for almost everything today. Therefore, a set of uniform rules regulating E-commerce transactions and subsequent consumer issues is the need of the hour in order to ensure fair competition and consumer protection. Thus, the introduction of the Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020 if implemented in true spirit will shield consumers from unfair trade practices to a great extent.