New rules for e-commerce players coming into effect from week-end: Paswan

Paswan also added unfair trade practice by e-commerce platforms would also be covered under this Act.

As the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, came into force on Monday, Consumer Affairs minister Ram Vilas Paswan said that the Act would empower consumers and protect their rights

The new rules for electronic retailers, including mandatory display of 'country of origin' on their products, will come into force by the end of this week, Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan said on Monday and emphasised that the entities will face penal action for any non-compliance.

The 'Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020' will be applicable to all electronic retailers (e-tailers) registered in India or abroad but offering goods and services to Indian consumers, he said.

"Most rules framed under the Consumer Protection Act 2019 have come into force from today (Monday). However, e-commerce rules will get notified by the end of this week, while rules on direct selling will take some more time," the Consumer Affairs Minister told reporters in a virtual press conference.

The e-commerce rules are "mandatory in nature" and violation of these will attract penalties as decided by the consumer protection authority and consumer courts as provided under the Act, he said.

Consumer Affairs Secretary Leena Nandan said the rules have been finalised after taking inputs from the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), under the aegis of the commerce ministry, so that they do not contravene with the overall e-commerce policy.

As per the rules, the e-commerce players will have to display the total 'price' of goods and services offered for sale along with break-up of other charges.

They are also required to mention the 'expiry date' of goods offered for sale and the 'country of origin' of goods and services that are necessary for enabling the consumer to make an informed decision at the pre-purchase stage.

E-tailers have to display details about return, refund, exchange, warranty and guarantee, delivery and shipment, modes of payment, and grievance redressal mechanism, and any other similar information that may be required by consumers to make informed decisions.

Sellers offering goods and services through a marketplace e-commerce entity will have to provide the above details to the e-commerce entity to be displayed on its platform or website.

They are also not allowed to "manipulate the price" of the goods and services offered on their platforms to gain unreasonable profit and discriminate between consumers of the same class or make any arbitrary classification of consumers affecting their rights under the Act.

Further, e-tailers will have to provide information on available payment methods, the security of those payment methods, any fees or charges payable by users, the procedure to cancel regular payments under those methods, charge-back options, if any, and the contact information of the relevant payment service provider.

That apart, e-tailers are required to display prominently to its users details about the 'sellers' offering goods and services, including the name of their business, whether registered or not, their geographic address, customer care number, any rating or other aggregated feedback about such seller, and any other information necessary for enabling consumers to make informed decisions at the pre-purchase stage.
They are also required to provide a ticket number for each complaint lodged, through which the consumer can track the status of the complaint.

However, the rules will not permit any inventory e-commerce entity, including single-brand retailers and multi-channel single-brand retailers, to "falsely represent itself as a consumer and post reviews about goods and services or misrepresent the quality or the features of any goods and services".

The e-commerce platforms will have to acknowledge receipt of any consumer complaint within 48 hours and redress that within a month from the date of receipt under this Act. The Act also introduces the concept of product liability and brings within its scope, product manufacturer, product service provider and product seller, for any compensation claim.

Paswan also added unfair trade practice by e-commerce platforms would also be covered under this Act. The gazette notification for setting up the CCPA and rules for prevention of unfair trade practice in e-commerce were under publication, said the Consumer Affairs Secretary.

The inventory e-commerce entities will also have to ensure that the advertisements for marketing of goods and services are consistent with the actual characteristics, access and usage conditions of such goods or services.

Under the rules, no inventory e-commerce entity will be allowed to refuse to take back goods, or withdraw or discontinue services purchased or agreed to be purchased, or refuse to refund consideration, if paid, if such goods or services are defective, deficient spurious, or if the goods or services are not of the features as advertised or as agreed to, or if such goods or services are delivered late from the stated delivery schedule.

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