News

On e-comm sites, the sky’s the limit for prices

R Dinakaran Chennai | Updated on January 11, 2018 Published on July 24, 2017

Is it impossible for an online marketplace to monitor each listing as the scale is large?   -  Shutterstock.com

A pack with MRP of Rs 60 priced at Rs 199 on Amazon

A pack with MRP of Rs 60 priced at Rs 199 on Amazon

The MRP is 89, but priced at over 4,000 on Amazon

The MRP is 89, but priced at over 4,000 on Amazon

Varied prices on eBay

Varied prices on eBay

Vendors pass off local goods as ‘imported’, with platforms giving them a free run

If you think online stores bring transparency to prices and the genuineness of goods they sell, you may well have another think coming.

BusinessLine has come across several instances of leading e-commerce retailers selling goods at several multiples of their Maximum Retail Price (MRP) on the specious claim that they are imported — when, in fact, they are made in India and widely available here.

Indicatively, Vicco Foam Facewash is listed for sale on Amazon at ₹2,869, and on eBay.in at ₹5,618. But the product costs just ₹87 and, contrary to claims by online vendors that it is imported from the US, it is made in India.

Likewise, Patanjali’s Activated Carbon Facewash, whose MRP is ₹60, is listed on Amazon at an ‘offer price’ of ₹199 — without even the facade of an ‘imported’ tag. And eBay lists the same product for ₹130 (or ₹260 for two pieces).

A Vicco spokesperson said the company had no manufacturing units abroad. So, there was no question of importing a product that is made in India.

No checks and balances

How do Amazon and eBay allow vendors to sell at these inflated prices?

Amazon does not seem to have any procedure to check listings. It said it took action only if such malpractices were “brought to its notice”.

“Prices for products on the Amazon.in marketplace are determined by the sellers,” said an Amazon spokesperson. “We take the issue of unfair pricing on our marketplace by sellers very seriously. Sellers are mandated to sell products as per the MRP, on Amazon.in. If it is brought to our notice that sellers are using our marketplace to sell products with pricing error, we work with the sellers to fix such issues.”

In case of repeated offenders, the spokesperson added, “we do not hesitate to take strict action and may even go to the extent of delisting them from our marketplace.”

eBay said sellers were only using it as a platform. “eBay is an online marketplace and an ‘intermediary’ under Section 2(1)(w) of the Information Technology Act 2000. eBay provides an online platform for independent sellers to showcase their products and a transaction is completed between independent sellers and buyers. The sole responsibility of the contents of a listing on eBay’s website and the conditions of the sale rests with third-party sellers. eBay only acts as an intermediary and does not hold or sell products and does not control pricing.”

‘Too big to monitor’

Can online players wash their hands of such listings? K Vaitheeswaran, one of the pioneers of online shopping in India and author of Failing to Succeed : The Story of India’s First E-Commerce Company, says: “It is impossible for an online marketplace to monitor each listing as the scale is so large.”

But don’t online retailers have a responsibility towards buyers too?

Harish Bijoor, founder, Harish Bijoor Consults, says: “This is totally inexcusable. The MRP regime needs to be adhered to by all; e-commerce platforms cannot inflate prices. If this has happened, it needs to be penalised.

The platforms’ inability to monitor listings is “no excuse — just as ignorance of law is not an excuse,” adds Bijoor.

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

Published on July 24, 2017
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor