India’s penchant for gold jewellery is well known with more than one-tenth of household assets allocated to the yellow metal; the proportion of assets in gold increases as family income goes down. It therefore becomes imperative that the Centre protects gold consumers by going ahead, as proposed, with its plan to make the new hallmarking including the six-digit alphanumeric HUID (Hallmark Unique Identification) number mandatory for all gold jewellery and artefacts sales from April 1 this year. Not only will this raise consumer protection, it will also increase the credibility of gold jewellery sold in India.
There is little merit in some gold jewellery associations’ demand that the deadline be extended to allow them to transition to the new system. They have already been given over two years to offload the stocks stamped with the old hallmark symbols and to switch to the new regime. Allowing jewellery with both the old as well as the new hallmarking to be sold in the market is leading to mis-selling.
The new hallmarking is certainly superior to the old system. The unique identification number, which has to be manually stamped at the assaying centres gives a distinct identity to every jewel, increasing its traceability. This information about high-value jewellery purchase can be used by the revenue department to go after tax evaders and will act as a deterrent for those wanting to use black money for gold purchases. It is also consumer friendly as the veracity of the jeweller’s claims can easily be verified through the BIS Care app and a complaint can be filed with the designated authority in cases of mis-selling. Malpractices among jewellers will also be contained once official evaluation and record of the purity of the jewels is in place.
Data disseminated by the BIS shows that the transition to the new regime will not be difficult. Around 1,20,000 gold jewellers have registered with BIS since the new hallmarking rules were announced in 2021. The roll-out of the new regime has been done in a phased manner with the number of districts being increased gradually over the last two years. Around 18 crore jewels have already been stamped with the HUID number. While some jewellers’ associations are demanding that the cost of hallmarking per piece should be reduced from ₹45 per piece to ₹25 or even ₹10, this need not be taken seriously. Given that gold jewellery is a high-value item, passing on this assaying cost to customers would not be difficult. Also, given that hallmarking each piece of jewel will be an intricate job requiring great attention to detail, the assaying cost appears quite justified. The authorities however need to review the adequacy of infrastructure available for carrying out this evaluation. While the 1,500 hallmarking and assaying centres, currently available, appear adequate now, the number may have to be increased to cater to the increasing demand in future
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