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New e-commerce rules give more power to consumers

07:20 AM Jul 24, 2020 | Sanjay Jog

The online shopping experience is set to change for the better with the release of new Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020, aimed at empowering the consumer further. Under the new rules, the consumer will no longer be charged a cancellation fee in case they cancel an order placed through an e-commerce portal.

Once the new rules, which fall under the Consumer Protection Act, are enforced, e-commerce sites cannot refuse to take back goods, or withdraw services or refuse funds in case the products are defective, deficient, delivered late or do not meet the description on the platform.

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The rules stipulate that an e-commerce company is expected to ensure that a grievance officer acknowledges receipt of any consumer complaint within 48 hours, and redresses the complaint within one month from the date of receipt of the complaint. In case of imported goods, the e-commerce site will mention the name and details of the importer that has purchased such goods and services or who may be a seller on its platform.

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Most importantly, no e-commerce platform shall record consent of the consumer automatically, including in the form of pre-ticked checkboxes. “Every e-commerce entity shall only record the consent of a consumer for the purchase of any good or service offered on its platform, where such consent is expressed through an explicit and affirmative action,” the Act states.

In order to curb price manipulation, the Government’s new rules have prohibited any e-commerce entity from manipulating the price of the goods or services offered on its platform “in such a manner as to gain unreasonable profit by imposing on consumers any unjustified price having regard to prevailing market conditions.” These entities will not discriminate between consumers of the same class or make any arbitrary classification of consumers affecting their rights under the Act.

The e-commerce company will appoint a nodal person of contact or an alternate senior designated functionary who is resident in India to ensure compliance with the provisions of the Act and the rules. No e-commerce entity will adopt any unfair trade practice, whether in the course of business on its platform or otherwise, the rules stipulate.

Further, every e-commerce entity will endeavour on a best effort basis to become a partner in the convergence process of the National Consumer Helpline of the Central Government.

Every marketplace e-commerce entity shall require sellers to give an undertaking to ensure that descriptions, images and other content pertaining to goods or services on their platform is accurate and corresponds directly with the appearance, nature, quality, purpose and other general features of such goods and services.

As far as duties of sellers on marketplace are concerned, the seller shall have a prior written contract with the respective e- commerce entity in order to undertake or solicit such sale or offer. The seller shall ensure that the advertisements for marketing of goods or services are consistent with the actual characteristics, access and usage conditions.

In case of inventory e-commerce entities, they shall provide information related to return, refund, exchange, warranty and guarantee, mode of payments and other information required by consumers to make informed decisions.

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