In the run-up to the suggestions for ecommerce guidelines under Consumer Protection Act, consumer affairs minister Ram Vilas Paswan said that the draft guidelines will be made part of the rules under the new consumer protection law. Once included under the rules, the guidelines become mandatory.
The ecommerce guidelines being referred here are the ones introduced by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs with an aim to prevent fraud, unfair trade practices and protecting the legitimate rights and interests of consumers. They also makes it mandatory for ecommerce marketplaces to display the legal name, address, website, email address and other contact details of sellers.
The rules also said that ecommerce entities will not be allowed to influence the prices of products sold on their websites directly or indirectly. The guidelines also put the onus on marketplaces to do their own due diligence when customers complain about receiving counterfeit products, and when they may need to take down such listings.
Paswan recently met a dozen parliamentarians, who called to address their concerns before proceeding with the framing of rules to implement the law. “Every MP’s view was that ecommerce guidelines should be incorporated as part of the rules under the new law. We are accepting their suggestion,” Paswan added.
Consumer Affairs Secretary Avinash K Srivastava said Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA), which will be established to promote, protect and enforce consumer rights under the new law will take action against violating e-commerce firms. “The regulatory body will have powers to take stringent action against violators. Consumer courts too have powers,” he said.
The Consumer Protection Bill 2019, passed recently in Parliament, seeks to establish CCPA and also envisages simplified dispute resolution process, deals with ”product liability” and provides for stiff punishment to check misleading ads and adulteration.
The rules being proposed are largely in line with mechanisms for consumer protection mentioned in the draft ecommerce policy.
The draft national ecommerce policy imposes stringent conditions on companies storing data outside the country like data stored abroad shall not be made available to other business entities outside India, for any purpose, even with the customer’s consent. Further, it also says that data stored abroad shall not be made available to a third-party, for any purpose, even if the customer consents to it. Also, a request from Indian authorities to have access to all such data stored abroad, shall be complied with immediately.
The ministry of consumer affairs is also seeking stakeholder comments till September 16. Further, the government has been considering an ecommerce policy for the past few months, since the DPIIT released the draft ecommerce policy in February.