No more fake reviews on e-commerce portals! Govt sets framework for protecting consumer

The standard will initially be voluntary for compliance, but when made mandatory, any violation can invite punishment for unfair trade practice or violation of consumer rights.

E-commerce fake review

The framework was meant to safeguard and protect consumer interest from fake and deceptive reviews. (Representative image: Reuters)

By Ashutosh Mishra: In a bid to fight the fake review menace on e-commerce platforms in the country, Centre has launched a framework for safeguarding and protecting consumer interest from fake and deceptive feedback of products mentioned on shopping portals.

The new set of regulations was launched by the Department of Consumer Affairs. Rohit Kumar Singh, Secretary, Department of Consumer Affairs, along with senior officers of the department and Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) launched the framework titled “Indian Standard (IS) 19000:2022 ‘Online Consumer Reviews — Principles and Requirements for their Collection, Moderation and Publication’. The standards will be applicable to every online platform which publishes consumer reviews.

The standard will initially be voluntary for compliance for all e-commerce platforms operational in the country. However, when made mandatory, the violation of the standard can invite punishment for unfair trade practice or violation of consumer rights.

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Once made mandatory, a consumer may submit grievances to the National Consumer Helpline, Consumer Commissions, or the CCPA, against misleading reviews.

During the launch, Singh said that BIS will also develop a Conformity Assessment Scheme for the standard to assess compliance. “The guiding principles of the standard are integrity, accuracy, privacy, security, transparency, accessibility and responsiveness,” Singh said.

“The standard prescribes specific responsibilities for the review author and the review administrator. For review author, these include confirming acceptance of terms and conditions, providing contact information and for review administrator, these include safeguarding personal information and training of staff,” Singh explained.

It also provides for the responsibilities of an organisation, including developing a code of practice, and necessary stipulations for terms and conditions like accessibility, criteria, and ensuring content does not contain financial information etc.

The standard also provides for methods for verification of review author through email address, identification by telephone call or SMS, confirming registration by clicking on a link, using the captcha system to check traceability and genuineness of the review author.

“The standard is expected to benefit all stakeholders in the e-commerce ecosystem i.e., consumers, e-commerce platforms, sellers etc. It will help usher in confidence among consumers to purchase goods online and help them take better purchase decisions,” the government official stated.

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Taking cognisance of the impact of fake and deceptive reviews and protection of consumer interest in e-commerce, the Department of Consumer Affairs said that it has constituted a committee to develop a framework for checking fake and deceptive reviews in e-commerce on June 10, 2022. “The committee included various stakeholders including e-commerce companies, industry associations, consumer organizations and law chairs,” Singh added.

The guidelines to curb fake reviews on e-commerce platforms will come into force from November 25. And as per the guidelines, all platforms will be required to form review administrators who will review the comments using automated or manual tools.

After implementation, consumers will not be allowed to edit the reviews of products on e-commerce platforms. Under the guidelines, the framework will restrict users or publishers from posting fake or fraudulent reviews. Identification of authors or publishers will be made mandatory by use of their email IDs or phone numbers.

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