Govt mulls ways to curb fake reviews on e-commerce platforms

Fake Reviews

New Delhi: Worried over frequent attempts by e-commerce platforms to mislead the people, the Department of Consumer Affairs (DoCA) has decided to prepare roadmap to crackdown on those websites, which indulge in escalating sales of their products or services by furnishing fake reviews.

Going ahead with its plan in the light of growing incidence of fraud by e-commerce platforms, DoCA has decided to hold a virtual meeting with the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) and other various stakeholders to frame the guidelines.

An official of the DoCA said that discussions at the meeting, slated for tomorrow, will broadly focus on the impact of fake and misleading reviews on consumers and possible measures to prevent such anomalies.

Secretary of DoCA Rohit Kumar Singh has written to all stakeholders including e-commerce entities like Flipkart, Amazon, Tata Sons, Reliance Retail and others besides, Consumer Forums, Law Universities, Lawyers, FICCI, CII, Consumer Rights Activists etc. to participate in the meeting.

Singh has also shared a Press Release of European Commission, dated January 20th, along with a formal letter, highlighting results of an EU-wide screening on online consumer reviews across 223 major websites.

The screening results underlines that at least 55% of the websites violate the unfair commercial Practices Directive of the EU, which requires truthful information to be presented to consumers to make an informed choice.

Further, in 144 out of the 223 websites checked, the authorities could not confirm that traders were doing enough to ensure that reviews were authentic, i.e., if they were posted by consumers who had actually used the product or service that was reviewed.

The letter states that ‘It is relevant to mention that with growing internet and smartphone use, consumers are increasingly shopping online to purchase goods and services.

Given that e-commerce involves a virtual shopping experience without any opportunity to physically view or examine the product or servcies, consumers heavily rely on reviews posted on e-commerce platforms to see the opinion and experience of user who have already purchased the goods or service.

 As a result, due to fake and misleading reviews, the right to be informed, which is a consumer right under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 is violated.’

‘Since the issue impacts people shopping online on a daily basis and has a significant impact on their rights as a consumer, it is important that it is examined with greater scrutiny and detail,’ the letter states.

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