The government has decided to make the draft e-commerce guidelines mandatory under the new Consumer Protection Act, in which stringent action has been prescribed against violators. The proposed guidelines for e-commerce firms entail a 14-day deadline to effect refund request, mandate e-tailers to display details of sellers supplying goods and services on their websites, and moot the procedure to resolve consumer complaints.
As per the draft guidelines on e-commerce, the companies are required to submit a self-declaration to the Consumer Affairs Ministry stating that they are conforming with the guidelines. Among other key guidelines, the companies will also be required to ensure that personally identifiable information of customers are protected and should not directly or indirectly influence the price of the goods or services and ‘maintain a level playing field.’
“The draft guidelines on e-commerce will be made part of the rules under the new Consumer Protection law. Once included under rules, the guidelines become mandatory,” Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan told reporters. He discussed the guidelines with some MPs to address their concerns as his Ministry officials are currently in the process of drafting the rules to implement the law. The Ministry has targeted to implement the Act by December and already sought feedback from stakeholders by September 15 on the draft guidelines. “Every MP’s view was that e-commerce guidelines should be incorporated as part of the rules under the new law. We are accepting their suggestion,” Paswan said.
According to Consumer Affairs Secretary Avinash K Srivastava, the 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. “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. —FE