Fake reviews on e-commerce platforms under Center’s radar | India is blooming

New Delhi: The government has moved to crack its whip on fake reviews on e-commerce platforms that mislead consumers into buying services or products online.

To gauge the magnitude and prepare a roadmap ahead, the Department of Consumer Affairs (DoCA) in association with the Advertising Standards Council of Inda (ASCI) will host a virtual meeting on Friday, May 27 with various stakeholders, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution.

“Discussions will be largely based on the impact of false and misleading reviews on consumers and possible measures to prevent such anomalies,” the ministry said.

DoCA Secretary Rohit Kumar Singh has written to all stakeholders including e-commerce entities such as Flipkart, Amazon, Tata Sons, Reliance Retail and others, consumer forums, universities in law, lawyers, FICCI, CII, consumer rights activists, etc. to attend the meeting.

Alongside the letter, a European Commission press release dated January 20, 2022, which highlights the results of an EU-wide review of online consumer reviews on 223 major websites, has been sent.

The results of the review highlight that at least 55% of websites violate the EU’s Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, which requires that truthful information be presented to consumers to make an informed choice.

In addition, on 144 of the 223 websites checked, authorities could not confirm that merchants made sufficient efforts to ensure that the reviews were authentic, i.e. if they were published by consumers who had actually used the evaluated product or service.

The letter states that “it is pertinent to mention that with the increasing use of the Internet and smartphones, consumers are increasingly shopping online to purchase goods and services. Since e-commerce involves a virtual shopping experience without any opportunity to physically see or examine the product, consumers rely heavily on reviews posted on e-commerce platforms to find out the opinion and the experience of users who have already purchased the good or service. As a result, due to false and misleading reviews, the right to be informed, which is a consumer right under the Consumer Protection Act 2019, is violated.

“Given that the issue affects people who shop online on a daily basis and has a significant impact on their rights as a consumer, it is important that it be examined with greater care and detail,” the letter states.