Fake listings on e-commerce platforms on the rise

Recently a few pharmaceutical shop owners received calls demanding the delivery of life-saving drugs like Remdesivir and liposomal Amphotericin from unknown customers, who claimed that they had paid money online.

V. Alagappan, proprietor of a medical shop in Mambalam, said, “We had a flurry of calls enquiring about the delivery of drugs for which customers said they had paid online. Only then did we realise that something was wrong and found that fraudsters were cheating people on e-commerce portals using our identity.”

“The fraudsters copied our GST numbers and addresses. They used them on an e-commerce portal, and made it seem like sufficient stock was available. The portal allowed them to post without verification. Our investigation showed that the bank account numbers were from West Bengal or Meghalaya,” said S. Balasubramanian, president of the Chennai Pharma Wholesalers’ Association.

Deputy Commissioner of Police, Adyar, V. Vikraman said, “Whatever you see online, do not trust blindly. You have to make your own assessment or verify the authenticity before availing yourself of the services.”

Experts said little attention had been shown to fixing accountability on intermediary e-commerce portals.

S. Saroja, director, Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group, said, “The Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules have come into effect from July 2020, but there is no active enforcement yet. People are being continuously exploited by fly-by-night operators of online portals who continue to exist.”

The Central Consumer Protection Authority has to take cognisance of such frauds and address the issue. Unfair trade practices and frauds in the online space are rampant now, she added.

“Today, they will advertise something. Tomorrow, they will not be there. Sometimes, people will not get the products they paid for. For the last year, we have had a maximum number of complaints on e-commerce portals,” Ms. Saroja said.

The Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules 2020, notified by the Consumer Affairs Ministry in July, directed e-commerce companies to display country of origin alongside the product listings. In addition, they will also have to reveal parameters behind determining the listings on their platforms.

Senior Advocate N.L. Rajah said, “Under the Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, we have a requirement that all e-commerce entities must have grievance redressal mechanisms. But their compliance remains in question, and no studies have been undertaken on this. While so much attention is on rules controlling social media, nobody is asking why a leading e-commerce portal did not provide a grievance redressal officer.”

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Printable version | Jul 29, 2021 6:53:15 PM |

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