This article is written by Simran Verma, second year BBA LLB student at New Law College, Pune
On July 20, 2020 the Consumer Protection Act came into force. When Consumer Protection Act, 2019, came into force then after few days of it, the Department of Consumer Affairs in the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Public Distribution and Food issued the Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020, on July 17, 2020. To avoid the ambivalence in laws, Department for the Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade made sure that these rules will not imbricate with the Data Protection Bill. These rules are applicable to all the registered electronic-retailers in India or abroad who offer their goods and services to the Indian consumers. They line up with the draft of the National E-commerce Policy which was released by the Indian Government in 2019. These new rules give the details about the applicability and the scope along with making provisions which make the online retailers more responsible and the businesses more transparent.
The rules are applicable to, inter alia; all the goods and services sold over electronic or digital network; and all the other types of e-commerce retail. The rules have produced a difference between the binding promises of e-commerce entities. These rules have also noticed and sorted the e-commerce entities into two types- inventory e-commerce entities and marketplace e-commerce entities. The marketplace e-commerce entity is something that provides the information technology platform on electronic and digital network to open the door for transactions that take place between the buyers and sellers on the other hand; an inventory based e-commerce entity retains the inventory of goods and services and sells them directly to the consumers.
Major provisions in the Rules
These rules are applicable to India’s e-commerce entities along with the outsiders, regardless of their operations, if the services are being offered to the Indian consumers.
- Duties of the entities of e-commerce- Consumer Protection (e-commerce) Rules, 2020
- There has to be an appointment made of a nodal person or senior designated official by the E-commerce entity, so that the person can keep a watch on the entity’s functioning and also makes sure that platform of e-commerce leaves no chance in following each and every rule of Consumer Protection Act e-commerce rules.
- A grievance redressal mechanism has to be set up by E-commerce and this can be done by appointing one grievance officer. All the details such as name, contact details, and designation of officers must be displayed on the e-commerce platform or the website.
- The assurance has to be made on behalf of the grievance officer that the complaint made by the consumers will be acknowledged within 48 hours of the complaint made and proper action will be taken on the complaint within not more than a month from the date of receipt of the complaint.
- The prices charged from the goods and the services offered in the platform must be reasonable, and no manipulation must be done on the cost for the mere reason to gain unreasonable profit. This clause came into force during the time of pandemic since the demand for some of the essential items which included sanitizers and masks; there was overcharge made by various sellers on the retail prices for the profits. Therefore, this problem can be resolved. Even, in the case of M/s Cargo Tarpaulin Industries v. Sri. Mallikarjun , the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission held that it is a crime if the goods are sold at a price that is higher than the MRP.
- If the platform offers some kind of goods and services that are imported, then in that case, the name and all the details of such type of importer or seller is supposed to be mentioned in the platform by the owner.
- There has been very clear mentioning by these rules that e-commerce platforms would not be charging any kind of cancellation charges until and unless there is any same cost that is borne by them.
- The seller has the responsibility to verify the description of the products and their information and also the details about the seller like geographical address (in case it is registered or not), feeding, customer care numbers, or be it the ratings in a clear manner so that informed decisions can be made by the consumers.
- Ticket numbers for the complaint must be provided to the consumers by the E-commerce entity so that the consumers can track its information regarding refund, status, grievance redressal mechanism, etc. so that help can be made to the consumers in making informed decisions.
- The advertisement made by the seller for the goods and services must be consistent with the real features of such goods and services.
- The seller must provide geographical address of the headquarters and all its branches, legal name, all the details of its website including its name, contact details, applicable GSTIN, customer care number along with the PAN details to the marketplace e-commerce entity.
- Before the goods are sold, there is a responsibility of the seller that he should have written contracts with the marketplace e-commerce entity through which there is intention of the seller to sell the goods and services.
- There should be a record maintained by the entities which includes all the sellers that have been restricted or removed previously with the aim to offer goods or services under the Trade Marks Act, 1999, Copyright Act, 1957, or the Information Technology Act, so that the information can be gained easily.
Seeing the present condition of consumer affairs and the advancement in the online marketing industry, these rules were much needed and awaited. The rights of the consumers will be strengthened and these rules would also help to eliminate several problems of the consumers, like making an influence on the customers with the help of false advertisement. This will also help in eliminating the malpractice of fake reviews and also the smooth functioning of the industry would be maintained. Although it is seen that these rules have almost covered up several points so that the present conditions of the consumers’ can be improved and has also prevented frauds, but there are some problems that still need to be addressed. I assume that the required demands can be made by the government with the help of inserting the necessary provisions in these rules. Overall, there will be management done by these rules on the ongoing important issues which are linked to the e-commerce industry, and in case some changes have to be made in these rules, then it will meet the purpose of future needs as well.
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