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Protection of online buyers a challenge: Paswan

Tomojit Basu New Delhi | Updated on October 10, 2014 Published on October 10, 2014

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Consumer protection in the e-commerce age is a challenge facing the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, said Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan on Friday.

“E-commerce is growing and consumers making online purchases should not be less protected than those shopping at local stores. Choices have also widened for customers and is a big challenge from the consumer protection point of view,” he said on the sidelines of an event held by the Consumer Coordination Council (CCC).

Paswan stated that there is a need to inform online shoppers of their rights and how to find legal recourse for their complaints. The Ministry, however, has not received complaints from online customers so far, he added.

Keshav Desiraju, Consumer Affairs Secretary, believed that with the expansion of online retail, there was a need to include specific provisions in the Consumer Protection Act (CoPRA, 1986) to safeguard consumers' interests.

“With the remarkable growth in communication technology and e-commerce, we need to revisit all our views on how the Act is implemented in the context of e-commerce. What are the implications for consumer welfare when the buyer and seller do not come face to face and where the transaction is on an entirely Internet-based platform?” he said.

Growth of online marketplaces has ramped up not just competition but also the chances of fraudulent selling, believed Indrani Thuraisingham, Head of Consumers International (Asia Pacific & Middle East). “It’s increased challenges for seeking redress, created new opportunities for fraud and heightened related consumer problems like spam and issues of privacy and security,” she said.

While increased consumer choice is a benefit, vulnerable consumers could be disadvantaged due to information asymmetry, added Thuraisingham.

Strengthening CoPRA, BIS Act

The Ministry had already suggested amendments to Consumer Protection Act (CoPRA), Paswan said, a significant suggestion being that of a regulatory authority being set up to deal with consumer cases faster. The Ministry was focusing on improving the quality of goods being produced domestically and has suggested changes for the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) Act (1986).

“The Consumer Protection Act was put in place 28 years ago, the world and consumers have changed since then but the Act has not. We have also proposed that the number of goods which has to comply with mandatory quality standards under the BIS Act be raised from 102 to 2,300,” he said.

Published on October 10, 2014
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