Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Duties of E-Commerce Entities - Consumer Protection Rules 2020

The Consumer Protection (E-Commerce Rules) 2020 have been announced on 23-Jul-2020 by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution.

What is the Purpose of these Rules?

To curb all forms of unfair trade practices across all models of e-commerce.

Which Entities do these Rules apply to?

(i) all goods and services incl. digital products bought or sold over an electronic network;
(ii) marketplace model of e-commerce;
(iii) inventory model of e-commerce;
(iv) e-commerce retail - multi-channel single brand retailers and single brand retailers in single or multiple formats; and
(v) e-commerce entities not established in India, but which systematically offer goods or services to Indian consumers.

An “e-commerce entity” means any person who owns, operates or manages digital or electronic facility or platform for electronic commerce, but does not include a seller offering his goods or services for sale on a marketplace e-commerce entity.

An “inventory e-commerce entity" means an e-commerce entity which owns the inventory of goods or services and sells such goods or services directly to the consumers and shall include single brand retailers and multi-channel single brand retailers.

A “marketplace e-commerce entity” means an e-commerce entity which provides an information technology platform on a digital or electronic network to facilitate transactions between buyers and sellers.

Which Information has to be Mandatorily Specified on the E-commerce Website?

Information about the E-Commerce Platform
(i) Legal name of the e-commerce entity
(ii) Principal address of its headquarters and branches
(iii) Name and details of its website
(iv) Contact details such as email ID, phone numbers, and contact details of a Grievance Officer

Information about the Seller
(i) Name of their business
(ii) Whether registered or not
(iii) Geographic address
(iv) Customer care number
(v) Any rating or other aggregated feedback
(vi) Other information necessary for enabling consumers to make informed decisions

Information About Payment Methods
(i) Available payment methods
(ii) Security of those payment methods
(iii) Fees or charges payable by users
(iv) Procedure to cancel regular payments under those methods
(v) Charge-back options, if any
(vi) Contact information of the relevant payment service provider

Information by the Seller
(i) Total price in single figure of any good or service
(ii) Breakup price showing all the compulsory and voluntary charges such as delivery charges, postage and handling charges, conveyance charges and the applicable taxes
(iii) Mandatory information under applicable laws, such as and including the expiry date of the goods
(iv) Country of Origin
(v) Name and details of Grievance Officer
(vi) Name and details of importer and guarantee details
(vii) Terms of exchange, refund, etc.

Other Information
(i) Explanation of the parameters which are most significant in determining the ranking of goods or sellers on its platform and the relative importance of those main parameters through an easily and publicly available description drafted in plain language.
(ii) Ticket number for each complaint lodged for compliant status tracking
(iii) Information relating to return, refund, exchange, warranty and guarantee
(iv) Information regarding delivery and shipment, and modes of payment
(v) Grievance Redressal Mechanism

What are the New Compliance Steps to be taken by E-Commerce Entities?

1. Grievance Officer (GO): Establish an adequate grievance redressal mechanism having regard to the number of grievances ordinarily received by such entity from India, and shall appoint a Grievance Officer for consumer grievance redressal, and shall display the name, contact details, and designation of such officer on its platform. 

2. Grievance Redressal Timeline:  The GO must acknowledge the receipt of any consumer complaint within 48 hours and redresses the complaint within 1 month from the date of receipt of the complaint.

3. Imported Goods/Services: For imported goods or services for sale, mention the name and details of the importer from whom it has been purchased, or who may be a seller on the platform.

4. Cancellation Charges: No e-commerce entity shall impose cancellation charges on consumers cancelling after confirming purchase unless similar charges are also borne by the e-commerce entity if they cancel the purchase order unilaterally for any reason.

5. Confirmation from Customer: Record the consent of a consumer for the purchase where such consent is expressed through an explicit and affirmative action, and not automatically, including in the form of pre-ticked checkboxes.

6. Refund Timelines: Effect all payments towards accepted refund requests of the consumers as prescribed by the RBI or any other competent authority under any law within a reasonable period of time or as prescribed under applicable laws.

7. No Manipulation of Prices or Consumers: Shall not manipulate the price of the goods or services in such a manner as to gain unreasonable profit by imposing on consumers any unjustified price having regard to the prevailing market conditions, the essential nature of the good or service, any extraordinary circumstances under which the good or service is offered, and any other relevant consideration in determining whether the price charged is justified; nor discriminate between consumers of the same class or make any arbitrary classification of consumers affecting their rights under the Consumer Protection Act.

8. Undertaking from Sellers: Shall require an undertaking from all sellers 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 good or service.

9. Terms & Conditions with Sellers: Include terms generally governing its relationship with sellers on its platform, a description of any differentiated treatment which it gives or might give between goods or services or sellers of the same category.

10. Record of Sellers: Maintain a record of relevant information allowing for the identification of all sellers who have repeatedly offered goods or services that have previously been removed or access to which has previously been disabled under the Copyright Act, 1957, the Trade Marks Act, 1999 or the Information Technology Act, 2000.

What are the Duties of the Sellers on E-Commerce Platforms?

1. No Malpractices: The seller shall not -
(i) influence the price of the goods or services
(ii) adopt any unfair methods or unfair or deceptive practice that may influence transactional decisions of consumers in relation to products and services
(iii) falsely represent themselves as consumers to promote their goods and services

2. No Refusal to Return/Refund: Shall not 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 or spurious, or if the goods or services are not of the characteristics or features as advertised or as agreed to, or if such goods or services are delivered late from the stated delivery schedule. However, in the case of late delivery, this sub-rule shall not be applied if such late delivery was due to force majeure

3. Grievance Officer (GO): Appoint a GO for consumer grievance redressal and ensure that he acknowledges the receipt of any consumer complaint within 48 hours and redresses the complaint within 1 month from the date of receipt of the complaint.

4. Written Contract: Have a prior written contract with the respective e-commerce entity

5. Advertisements: Should be consistent with the actual characteristics, access and usage conditions of such goods or services.

6. Basic Details: Provide to the e-commerce entity its legal name, principal geographic address of its headquarters and all branches, the name and details of its website, its e-mail address, customer care contact details such as fax, landline, and mobile numbers and where applicable, its GSTIN and PAN details.