'Country of origin' compliance adds to worries of e-commerce sellers

According to the survey by LocalCircles, only 65 per cent of consumers could find MRP information on e-com sites
Many online sellers on various e-commerce platforms have not been able to comply with the Legal Metrology Packaged Commodity Rules 2017 (PCR 2017) amendment and display ‘best before date’ for products and in some cases even the maximum retail price (MRP), according to community-led social media engagement platform LocalCircles. 

It said the new rules brought by the government for these sellers to display ‘country of origin’ will not happen, and if it does, it will not be accurate. 

“Hence, the government should look at mandating — for all packaged products — display of image of the ‘principal display panel’. It must give e-commerce platforms and sellers six months to comply,” said Sachin Taparia, founder and chairman, LocalCircles. “Such a move will not only make compliance easier, from a consumer standpoint, but also bring the online buying experience closer to buying at a retail store where all this information is available,” Taparia said. 

The ‘principal display panel’ (PDP) is part of a product label that carries all the information about the item, including country of origin and net contents.

According to the LocalCircles survey, only 65 per cent consumers could find MRP information on e-commerce sites. Also, only 31 per cent could find ‘best before date’ data for human consumption products.

The department of consumer affairs implemented the PCR 2017 on  January 1, 2018, and mandated the display of MRP for every packaged product on e-commerce sites operating in India. It also mandated display of the ‘best before date’ for human consumption items being sold across e-commerce sites to help consumers make informed decisions. Also, PCR 2017 amendment applies legal metrology rules to e-commerce. It requires sellers to display MRP for all packaged products. This includes human consumption products such as grocery, medicines and cosmetics that have to show best before date.

Two-and-a-half years after PCR 2017 came into force, LocalCircles conducted its 30th month survey to check what has been the compliance status in the past three months. 

This was done especially after the government mandated display of ‘country of origin’ on e-commerce sites. The survey received over 16,000 responses from consumers based in 228 districts of India. 

Consumers were asked if most e-commerce sites that they have shopped at in the last three months are now disclosing MRP information on their site or app. In response, 65 per cent said ‘yes’ while 35 per cent said ‘no’. 

However, LocalCircles said sellers on most large e-commerce platforms such as Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal are now compliant on the MRP display rule. Also, the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, came into effect from July 20, 2020. With this, the Consumer Protection (e-commerce) Rules 2020 were enforced from July 23. According to the notification, these rules would cover all goods and services bought or sold over digital or electronic networks. 

This includes e-commerce entities like AliExpress, which are not established in India, but offer goods or services to consumers in India. 

However, according to the LocalCircles survey, 69 per cent consumers could not find the best before date information on human consumption products on e-commerce sites. 

Only 31 per cent said they were easily able to find it. The e-commerce Rules 2020 also clearly state that sellers on e-commerce platforms are mandated to provide the expiry date of the goods offered for sale, wherever applicable. According to the survey, the percentage of consumers who were not able to find this information in last year’s survey stood at 54 per cent while it has increased to 69 per cent this year.

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