By Nakshatra Gujrati
The author is a first-year law student at National Law University Odisha and is the founder of LAWOGS.
The Consumer protection act 2019 confers the power on the central government to make E-commerce rules.
Scope of the Act
- Any services, goods or digital products sold over the internet comes under its ambit.
- Multi-channel sites such as Amazon, Flipkart & Single channel websites like retail website of seller are also under the ambit of this act.
- This act will not apply on an individual who is acting in personal capacity and not in a commercial activity. Say for example, a person who ships a mobile phone online to gift his dearest ones.
The rules will apply to a platform even if it isn’t located in India but sell its products and services
Duties of E-Commerce entities.
- The company must be incorporated under Companies act 1956 or Companies act 2013. If the company has office or branch outside India and is owned or controlled by the resident of India, it must be registered under Foreign exchange management act 1999.
- The company must appoint a person as its senior or a person who could be contacted during times of ensuring compliance according to Consumer protection act 2019 and the person must be a resident of India.
- Every e-commerce entity is required to display its legal name clearly, its geographical address of its headquarters and all branches, name and details of its website and fax, mobile and other contacting details including that of grievance officer.
No e-commerce entity must practice any unfair trade practices.
Unfair trade practices are defined by Investopedia as “ The use of various deceptive, fraudulent, or unethical methods to obtain business. Unfair business practices include misrepresentation, false advertising or representation of a good or service, tied selling, false free prize or gift offers, deceptive pricing, and noncompliance with manufacturing standards. Such acts are considered unlawful by statute through the Consumer Protection Law, which opens up recourse for consumers by way of compensatory or punitive damages. An unfair trade practice is sometimes referred to as “deceptive trade practices” or “unfair business practices” (Unfair Trade Practice Definition (investopedia.com) )
- E-commerce sites are required to setup a grievance redressal mechanism and the officer heading the mechanism must be explicitly mentioned on the website itself with his contact details. It basically refers to the teams which facilitate your complaints to the seller or processes refund requests, return requests. All these are a part of grievance redressal mechanism.
- If any website imports some products and lists it on the website it must bear the name of importer, like some gadgets are available in international market but due to their demand some websites start selling them so they are required to follow this.
- No e-commerce site can charge the consumers for cancellation of product after confirmation of order unless the charges are borne by website if they cancel the order unilaterally. Say there are some edible products and they are non-cancellable and non-returnable but as they are cancelled during transit there are good chances of getting it stale when it reaches back to seller in this case the cost is borne by site and it may charge the purchaser for cancelling it.
- Sometimes there are some orders just as mentioned in point 6 which have some terms and conditions and consumers need to give their consent to such clauses so the law creates a situation in favour of consumer which says the consent must be explicit and consumer must have option for checking the tick box which are sometimes pre-filled by websites and you are just required to press the okay button, this gives the consumer a chance to understand that particular order has some unique conditions per se.
- E-commerce websites are required to refund all the approved requests as per rules of RBI or any other competent authority within a reasonable time frame. This is very simple say you return those apparels which doesn’t fit your size and your request is approved, they must refund it as per working bank days as mandated by RBI.
- (1) No e-commerce website can manipulate price of goods. Say for example on medical ecommerce platforms some medicines are essential and aren’t easily available, so ecommerce platform can not sell it on exorbitant prices just because demand is skyrocketing without concomitant rise in production.
(2) E-commerce websites can’t create a class of consumers and then discriminate, for example Rakesh buys products from Amazonia since its initiation and now Amazonia is a huge hit in the market, so Amazonia can’t give free things to only Rakesh or some extra discounts unique to only Rakesh.
These were some rules as mentioned in CPA 2019, the author tried to simplify the text so it isn’t a source of law. The abovementioned text is just a simplification and not an op-ed. The article will be continued….