Consumer Protection Act 2019 came into force on Monday as the Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Ram Vilas Paswan addressed reporters in a virtual press conference. He said, “the rules for prevention of unfair trade practice by e-commerce platforms will also be covered under this Act. 

Shoppers can expect their life to get easier with the new Consumer Protection Rules of 2020 for e-commerce which says platforms can’t charge cancellation fees if a consumer chooses to cancel an order after confirming the purchase.

Otherwise, e-tailers should also pay similar charges, if they cancel the purchase order unilaterally for any reason, according to the new guidelines, expected to be notified this week through a gazette notification.

According to e-commerce executives, this will give ‘better-defined’ legal power to consumers to go to court in case of disputes related to e-commerce, including on counterfeit products.

The new proposals also clarify on liabilities of the platform in a marketplace model and in the inventory model. In a marketplace model, third-party sellers list and sell goods while in the inventory model, the platform stocks goods and sell online.

“Any inventory e-commerce entity which explicitly or implicitly vouches for the authenticity of the goods or services sold by it, or guarantees that such goods or services are authentic, shall bear appropriate liability in any action related to the authenticity of such good or service,” it said. The Consumer Protection Rules for e-commerce is part of the Consumer Protection Act 2019, which came to effect on Monday.

Among other measures to strengthen consumer rights, both e-tailers and their sellers have to appoint grievance officers to address any complaints. Industry executives said this would be an additional burden on small sellers. “The changes give more power to consumers. Once notified, you will have a better-defined law to air your grievances but for each seller to appoint such an officer would be a difficult challenge,” a senior executive said.

Similar to the marketplace, the sellers should also not refuse to take back goods, discontinue services or stop refunds if the products are found to be fake, defective, delivered late, or look different from description on the platform. E-tailers also can’t bundle up products with pre-ticked checkboxes on certain products without consumer consent and also issue a receipt of consumer complaint within 48 hours of it being raised.

The proposals further said product prices should not be manipulated by e-tailers, and they show the country of origin. Details like name, address, the contact information of both –marketplace and sellers-should be listed online.

“While we are in the process of examining the provisions of the Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules 2020, Snapdeal is fully supportive of all measures that enhance protection for the consumers, provide a level playing field to sellers and enable healthy growth of the e-commerce sector in India,” a Snapdeal spokesperson said.

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