Norms to Curb Fake Reviews on e-commerce Sites

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    In News

    • The Department of Consumer Affairs has recently announced new regulations to protect consumers from ‘fake and deceptive reviews’.

    Major Guidelines 

    • Voluntary Action: 
      • E-commerce platforms will need to voluntarily disclose paid customer reviews of products and services.
      • The e-commerce Company or restaurant will have to develop a code of practice, necessary terms and conditions for accessibility, and ensure that the content does not contain financial information.
    • Identity:
      • Reviews should not be misleading, and the identities of the reviewers should not be disclosed without their permission.
    • Purchased review: 
      • If a review is purchased or you are rewarding the person for writing the review, then that has to be clearly marked as a purchased review.
    • Application:
      • The standard, IS 19000:2022, will apply to all organisations that publish consumer reviews online. These will include suppliers of products and services which collect reviews from their customers, third parties contracted by suppliers or independent third parties. 
    • The BIS has defined reviews as solicited and unsolicited: 
      • The person responsible for handling the review in any organisation will be called the review administrator
      • Solicited review refers to consumer reviews requested by the supplier or review administrator
    • Time period:
      • If a product gets a 4-5 stars rating, the organization will have to inform the period in which the data was collected, and if an average was calculated.

    Need of such a regulation

    • Reviews posted online play a significant role in making purchase decisions and consumers exceedingly rely on reviews posted on e-commerce platforms to see the opinion and experience of users who have already purchased the good or service. 

    Significance of the move

    • Increased transparency: The new guidelines for online reviews are designed to drive increased transparency for both consumers and brands and promote information accuracy.
    • Protection of consumers: Regulations are aimed at protecting consumers from fake and deceptive reviews.
    • Building Trust: Given that e-commerce involves a virtual shopping experience without any opportunity to physically view or examine the product, it is essential that reviews are genuine, authentic and trustworthy. 
    • Penalty: If they indulge in unfair trade practices, then under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) or a consumer court can take penal action. CCPA usually treats such cases as a ‘class’ and the consumer commission as individual cases.

    Way forward

    • The government will first set up a mechanism for voluntary compliance, and will make it mandatory if the menace continues to grow. 
    • Some countries are making rules, and some are making legal provisions, but India is the first country to make a standard.

    Bureau of Indian Standards

    • It is the National Standard Body of India. The Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 2016, has been implemented since 2017.
    • It is responsible for the harmonious development of the activities of standardization, marking and quality certification of goods and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
    • BIS has its Headquarters at New Delhi. It has 5 Regional Offices (ROs) located at Kolkata (Eastern), Chennai (Southern), Mumbai (Western), Chandigarh (Northern) and Delhi (Central). 
    • The standards and certification scheme of BIS apart from benefitting the consumers and industry also support various public policies especially in areas of product safety, consumer protection, food safety, environment protection, building and construction, etc.
    • It has worked towards specifically addressing various national priorities and other government initiatives like Swacch Bharat Abhiyan, Digital India, Make in India and ease of doing business through its activities of standardization and certification.
    • The activities of BIS can be broadly grouped under the following heads:
      • Standards formulation
      • International activities 
      • Product Certification
      • Hallmarking
      • Laboratory services
      • Training services – National Institute of Training for Standardisation
      • Consumer Affairs and Publicity

    Source: TH