Framework to Protect Consumers from Fake, Deceptive Reviews in E-Commerce

The Indian Government has unveiled a framework to set standards for publishing product reviews on e-commerce sites. The standards will be applicable from November 25.

What are the key features of the framework?

  • The new standards will initially be voluntary. They will become mandatory after observing the platforms’ compliance with the standards.
  • Once it becomes mandatory, violation of the standards would invite punishment for unfair trade practice or violation of consumer rights. A consumer can submit grievances against misleading reviews to the National Consumer Helpline, Consumer Commissions, or the CCPA.
  • Integrity, accuracy, privacy, security, transparency, accessibility and responsiveness are the guiding principles of the standard.
  • The standard recommends several responsibilities of the review author and review administrator. For review author, the responsibilities include confirming and accepting to terms and conditions and providing contact information. For review administration, it includes safeguarding personal information and training of staffs.
  • The standard provides responsibilities for organizations, like the development of a code of practice and necessary stipulations for terms and conditions like criteria, accessibility and ensuring that the content does not include financial information.
  • It provides methods to verify the author of the review via email address, identification by phone call or SMS, confirming registration by clicking on a link, using captcha system etc.
  • The standard provides both automated and manual moderation to check the content of the review.

Why does this standard matter?

The standard is expected to benefit all stakeholders in the e-commerce industry. These include consumers, e-commerce platforms, sellers etc. It will boost consumer confidence in purchasing online. Over the past several years, there has been a steady increase in e-commerce transactions across India. Online reviews have played a major role in making purchase decisions. Consumers are highly dependent on reviews posted on e-commerce platforms to understand the opinion and experiences of the product/service’s users. This is especially significant since consumers are unable to physically view or examine the products while undertaking virtual shopping.

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