The Odisha State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission has found Amazon India guilty of ‘unfair trade practices’ for withdrawing an offer for sale of a laptop. The Commission directed the company to pay a sum of Rupees forty thousand as compensation to the complainant.
In this context, let us look at consumer protection laws and how they apply to e-commerce platforms.
Who is a consumer?
A consumer is any person who buys goods and services, as well as anyone who uses them. For instance, a person who watches a movie after buying a movie ticket is a consumer and similarly, a person who uses a gift voucher gifted from someone else is also a consumer.
Consumers have a right to file a complaint for any of the services or goods used by them.
What are unfair trade practices?
Consumers can complain against unfair trade practices such as false statements about the goods’ standard, quality and quantity, the marketing of used/second-hand goods as new goods, false claims about a warranty, or the warranty period being scientifically untested, etc.
Can consumers complain against e-commerce platforms?
Yes, e-commerce platforms, such as online shopping websites like Flipkart and Amazon, are treated as service providers who work for a profit and are liable whenever there has been a violation of consumer rights.
What is the legal responsibility of e-commerce platforms towards consumers?
An e-commerce platform is separately governed by e-commerce rules in India, according to which e-commerce platforms:
- Must respond within forty-eight hours of a complaint. Complaints can be made from any place, regardless of where the purchase was made.
- Must display the details of sellers, such as their address, contact details, etc.
- Must not directly or indirectly manipulate goods’ prices, and must not adopt any unfair or deceptive methods of sale.
- Must not exaggerate the qualities of a product or post fake reviews.
- Must protect consumers’ personal information so that personal details are kept confidential and the privacy of consumers is protected.
How can consumers complain to e-commerce platforms?
E-commerce platforms must establish a ‘Grievance Redressal Mechanism’ and should appoint a ‘Grievance Officer’ for Indian customers to get their concerns addressed. The details about the Grievance Redressal Mechanism must be displayed on the e-commerce platform. The Grievance officer must acknowledge the complaint within forty-eight hours and address the concern within a period of one month.
Can consumers file legal complaints online for violation of consumer rights?
Yes, the Department of Consumer Affairs has launched a portal known as the Integrated Grievance Redress Mechanism (INGRAM) for bringing all stakeholders such as Consumers, Central and State Government Agencies, Private Companies, Regulators, Ombudsmen, etc. onto a single platform. Consumers can register their grievances online through this portal.
If you want to read more on how the law protects your consumer rights, check out our explainer on Consumer Rights.