Around 18 per cent of the total complaints registered during April-November 2017 with the National Consumer Helpline (NCH), which has been set up by the Department of Consumer Affairs, were related to the e-commerce sector, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry C R Chaudhary has said in Parliament.
“(The) e-commerce sector contributed around 18 per cent of the total complaints/ dockets registered at NCH in the current year 2017-18,” Chaudhary told the Lok Sabha on January 1. The number of complaints against the e-commerce companies have been rising since 2014-15.
During the April-November period of 2017, the number of complaints filed related to e-commerce sector were 54,114. This was higher than the total number of complaints filed during the corresponding period of 2016-17. The total number of e-commerce sector complaints filed during 2016-17 and 2015-16 were 54,872 and 28, 331, respectively. During 2014-15, the number of complaints related to e-commerce sector were only 16,919.
The NCH was established in partnership with 225 companies under a convergence programme for speedy redressal of grievances. Around 58 e-commerce companies are also part of the NCH as “convergence partners”. Consumer grievances addressed to the NCH are redressed by forwarding the complaints to concerned departments and the companies and constant monitoring the progress in their redressal.
“This is the alternate grievance redressal method, and is a completely voluntary initiative taken up by these companies. As part of this ‘convergence’ programme, NCH forwards/gives access to the individual convergence company to address/redress these complaints as per the company’s own internal grievance handling system. The redressal provided is communicated to the customer as well as to NCH by the company… Complaints regarding those companies which have not partnered with NCH are forwarded by NCH to the company for redressal,” Chaudhary added.
Last week, the government introduced the Consumer Protection Bill, 2018, in Parliament, which will replace the existing 31-year old Consumer Protection Act. The Bill proposes a Central Consumer Protection Authority, which will be an executive agency to provide relief to consumers against unfair trade practices and misleading advertisements. The authority will have the powers to penalise violators for non-compliance of its directions with six months imprisonment or Rs 25 lakh fine, or both.
The Bill also provides for simplification of consumer disputes adjudication process for faster disposal of grievances through filing of complaints by a consumer from his place of residence, e-filing and video conferencing for hearing. The Bill has a provision that allows the Centre to regulate e-commerce and direct selling.