The Indian government has released draft guidelines on the conduct of e-commerce to enhance consumer protection and prevent fraud and unfair business practices.
The Department of Consumer Affairs on August 2 published the draft “e-Commerce Guidelines for consumer protection 2019” to “serve as guiding principles for e commerce business for preventing fraud, unfair trade practices and protecting the legitimate rights and interests of consumers.”
These guidelines apply to business-to-consumer e-commerce, including goods and services, which also include digital contents products.
Under the draft guidelines, every e-commerce entity carrying out or intending to carry out e-commerce business in India shall be a registered legal entity under the laws of the country, and shall submit a self-declaration of its compliance with these guidelines.
The e-commerce entity may facilitate payments for sale in conformity with the guidelines of the Reserve Bank of India.
In addition, details about the sellers supplying the goods and services, including how they can be contacted by customers shall be displayed on the website.
Specifically, the guidelines state than an e-commerce entity shall not directly or indirectly influence the price of the goods or services, or adopt any unfair methods or unfair or deceptive practices to promote the sale, use or supply of any goods and to influence the buying decisions of consumers.
Additionally, e-commerce entities shall not 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.
Furthermore an e-commerce entity shall display terms of contract relating to return, refund, exchange, warranty / guarantee, delivery / shipment, mode of payments, and grievance redressal mechanism to enable consumers to make informed decisions.
It shall also 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; and provide information on available payment methods and how to cancel regular payments under those methods.
It shall likewise ensure that personally identifiable information of customers are protected. At the same it, it shall accept return of goods if delivered late from the stated delivery schedule or if the goods delivered were defective, wrong or spurious, or not of the characteristics or features as advertised. And the e-commerce entity shall effect payments of customers’ refund requests within a maximum period of 14 days.
If the e-commerce entity is informed about any counterfeit product being sold on its platform, it shall notify the seller and if the seller is unable to provide any evidence that the product is genuine, it shall take down the said listing.
The e-commerce entity shall be held guilty of contributory or secondary liability if it vouches for the authenticity of the goods sold on its market place—or if it guarantees that goods are authentic, said the proposed guidelines.
The department said views and comments from stakeholders on the draft guidelines are welcome until September 16, 2019.