As per a new notification by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, ecommerce companies will soon have to start declaring the expiry dates and maximum retail prices of packaged consumer products online. The rules will become effective from January 1, 2018.
The notification dated June 23, has amended the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) 2011 to bring ecommerce companies and online marketplaces under its purview.
Under the new rules, ecommerce companies will also have to display the country of origin on their online product pages.
The Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Amendment Rules, 2017 states, “An ecommerce entity shall ensure that the mandatory declarations as specified, except the month and year in which the commodity is manufactured or packed, shall be displayed on the digital and electronic network used for ecommerce transactions.”
The ruling is aimed at protecting consumers from being sold old goods.
In case of online marketplaces such as Flipkart and Amazon India that do not own inventory, they will be held responsible for ensuring due diligence before dispatching the products. This will be regardless of the fact that “the correctness of declarations lie with the manufacturer or seller or dealer or importer.”
An Amazon spokesperson told ET, “We work with our sellers to ensure that our customers receive safe food products well within their indicated shelf lives. We train employees to check best-before dates while storing and packing food products at our fulfilment centres.”
Meanwhile hyperlocal startup Grofers also plans to shortly begin displaying expiry dates for batches of products. Co-founder Albinder Dhindsa stated that a product ships to a customer only if it is within a reasonable window of usage. He claims that currently in case a customer complains about the expiry date within 48 hours of delivery, Grofers offers a replacement. He also mentioned that expiry related complaints are fewer than two in 1,000 products as far as Grofers is concerned.
The move follows after the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) conducted discussions on citizen engagement platform LocalCircles. Over 98% of the 7,000 consumers surveyed by the portal wanted expiry dates along with other particulars to be listed clearly on ecommerce sites. The forum had several people pointing to the issue of products being sold online close to their expiry or best-before dates. Hence under the new guidelines, food products will be covered under specifications set by the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.
The GST imposition on ecommerce businesses has currently been delayed, giving a sigh of relief to multiple sellers. But, the recent turn off events will surely add to the complexities involved in online trade. It only remains to be seen with time how efficiently these ecommerce startups adapt to the new ruling.
(This development was first reported by ET.)