The Centre is bringing out a standard for publishing product reviews for e-commerce platforms from November 25. To start with voluntary, the standard could become mandatory after observing compliance to the standards by such platforms. The framework for the standard was prepared by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS).
Talking to reporters here on Monday, Secretary of the Department of Consumer Affairs, Rohit Kumar Singh, said the framework was meant to safeguard and protect consumer interest from fake and deceptive reviews on e-commerce platforms. If made mandatory, the violation of the standard, titled Indian Standard (IS) 19000:2022 ‘Online Consumer Reviews — Principles and Requirements for their Collection, Moderation and Publication’, can invite punishment for unfair trade practice or violation of consumer rights. Once made mandatory, a consumer may submit grievances to the National Consumer Helpline, Consumer Commissions, or the CCPA, against misleading reviews. “The standards will be applicable to every online platform which publishes consumer reviews,” Mr. Singh said.
The guiding principles of the standard are integrity, accuracy, privacy, security, transparency, accessibility and responsiveness, he said. “The standard prescribes specific responsibilities for the review author and the review administrator. For the 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,” Mr. Singh added.
The standard also provides for methods for verification of the review author through email address, identification by telephone call or SMS, confirming registration by clicking on a link, using captcha system, etc., to check the traceability and genuineness of the review author. “The standard is expected to benefit all stakeholders in the e-commerce ecosystem, that is, 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 Secretary said.
Taking cognisance of the impact of fake and deceptive reviews and protection of consumer interest in e-commerce, the Department of Consumer Affairs constituted a committee to develop a framework for checking fake and deceptive reviews in e-commerce on June 10, 2022. “The committee comprised various stakeholders, including e-commerce companies, industry associations, consumer organisations, and law chairs,” he added.
Mr. Singh said the BIS had consulted all e-platform giants before drafting the guidelines, and responses from the public were also invited. He said the BIS will come out with a certification process within the next 15 days to check whether a company was complying with these standards. “E-commerce players can apply for the certification of this standard with the BSI. We are probably the first country in the world to formulate standard for online reviews. Many other countries are also struggling on how to handle the fake reviews,” he said, and added that the Ministry does not want to bulldoze the industry, “We want to take the standard route. We will first see the voluntary compliance and then, if the menace continues to grow, we will, maybe, make it mandatory in the future.”