Fake reviews on e-commerce platforms under Centre’s radar

New Delhi: Did you ever get misled due to a review of a product that you bought online? Did you feel cheated after buying something online as you found it did not conform with the reccos online?

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The government claims it is alive to such situations and troubles faced by the consumers and now called on a virtual meeting on Friday to resolve such issues and chart a roadmap, it was declared on Thursday.

The Department of Consumer Affairs (DoCA) in association with the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) will be holding a virtual meeting on Friday along with various stakeholders to gauge the magnitude of fake reviews on e-commerce platforms, which mislead consumers into buying online services or products and to prepare a roadmap ahead.

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The discussions will be broadly based on the impact of fake and misleading reviews on consumers and possible measures to prevent such anomalies.

In this regard, Secretary DoCA, Rohit Kumar Singh has written to all stakeholders: E-commerce entities such as Flipkart, Amazon, Tata Sons, Reliance Retail and others besides, Consumer Forums, Law Universities, Lawyers, FICCI, CII, Consumer Rights Activists etc. to attend the meeting.

Along with the letter, Singh has also shared a press release of the European Commission dated January 20, 2022 highlighting results of an EU-wide screening on online consumer reviews across 223 major websites.

The screening results underlined that at least 55 per cent of the websites violated the unfair commercial Practices Directive of the E.U. 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: “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, consumers heavily rely on reviews posted on e-commerce platforms to see the opinion and experience of users, 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 adds.

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