The Center will develop a framework to control fake reviews on e-commerce sites. The Department of Consumer Affairs (DoCA), after studying the current mechanism followed by e-commerce entities in India and the best practices available globally, will develop the framework.
DoCA in association with the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) as well as various stakeholders such as e-commerce entities, consumer forums, law academies, lawyers, FICCI, CII, consumer rights activists and others in a meeting discussed the scale and roadmap ahead for fake reviews on websites. E-commerce companies like Amazon, Flipkart, Reliance and Tata attended the meeting, sources say
Since e-commerce involves a virtual shopping experience without any opportunity to physically see or examine the product, consumers rely heavily on reviews posted on e-commerce platforms to find out the opinion and the experience of users who have already purchased the good or service.
“Traceability by guaranteeing the authenticity of the examiner and the associated responsibility of the platform are the two key issues here. E-com players must also disclose how they choose the “most relevant notices” to display in a fair and transparent manner,” DoCA Secretary Rohit Kumar Singh said.
All stakeholders agreed that the issue merited close monitoring. They agreed that an appropriate framework governing fake reviews could be developed to address the issue of protecting consumer interests.
Stakeholders of e-commerce companies said they have frameworks in place to monitor fake reviews and would be happy to participate in developing a legal framework on the matter.
Along with the DoCA Secretary, Nidhi Khare, Additional Secretary and Anupam Mishra, Co-Secretary attended the meeting.
Manisha Kapoor, CEO of ASCI, highlighted the categories of false and misleading reviews and their impact on consumer interest. Paid reviews, unverifiable reviews, and lack of disclosure in the event of prompted reviews, which make it difficult for consumers to recognize genuine reviews, were among the issues discussed.
The meeting comes days after Consumer Secretary Rohit Kumar Singh wrote to various e-commerce companies such as Amazon, Flipkart, Amazon, Reliance and Tata and other business organizations. The focus of the meeting was to find out what companies are doing to address the issue of fake reviews and what kind of regulations need to be introduced.
Singh, along with his letter to e-commerce businesses, had also shared a statement issued by the European Commission dated January 20, 2022. It highlighted the results of an EU-wide review of notices of online consumers on 223 major websites.
“The results of the review highlight that at least 55% of websites are in breach of the EU’s Unfair Commercial Practices Directive which requires that truthful information be presented to consumers to make an informed choice,” the statement said.
“Furthermore, in 144 of the 223 websites checked, authorities could not confirm that merchants were doing enough to ensure reviews were genuine, i.e., posted by consumers. who had actually used the evaluated product or service.”