The consumer affairs ministry along with Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) will hold a virtual meeting on Friday with stakeholders including e-commerce entities to discuss the magnitude of fake reviews on their platforms, which mislead consumers into buying online products and services. The purpose of the meeting is to prepare a road map ahead. The discussions will be broadly based on the impact of fake and misleading reviews on consumers and possible measures to prevent such anomaly, the ministry said in a statement.
Consumer affairs secretary Rohit Kumar Singh has written to all stakeholders: E-commerce entities like Flipkart, Amazon, Tata Sons, Reliance Retail and others, besides consumer forums, law universities, lawyers, FICCI, CII, consumer rights activists, etc. to participate in the meeting.
The secretary has flagged with stakeholders results of an EU-wide screening on online consumer reviews across 223 major websites.
The screening results underlines that at least 55 percent of the websites violate the unfair commercial practices directive of the EU, which requires truthful information to be presented to consumers to make an informed choice.
Further, in 144 out of the 223 websites checked, the authorities could not confirm that traders were doing enough to ensure that reviews were authentic, i.e., if they were posted by consumers who had actually used the product or service that was reviewed, the statement said.
The secretary said in the letter that consumers are increasingly shopping online for purchase of goods and services with growing internet and smartphone use.
“Given that e-commerce involves a virtual shopping experience without any opportunity to physically view or examine the product, consumers heavily rely on reviews posted on e-commerce platforms to see the opinion and experience of users who have already purchased the goods or service,” he said.
As a result, due to fake and misleading reviews, the right to be informed, which is a consumer right under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, is violated, he added.
“Since the issue impacts people shopping online on a daily basis and has a significant impact on their rights as a consumer, it is important that it is examined with greater scrutiny and detail,” the secretary added.