Fake Reviews on E-commerce Platforms Misleading Consumers Under Govt's Radar

To measure the immensity of fake reviews on e-commerce platforms which mislead consumers into buying online services or products and to further prepare a roadmap, the Department of Consumer Affairs (DoCA) in association with the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) announced that they will be holding a virtual meeting today, along with various stakeholders.

DoCA, which comes under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, administers the policies for Consumer Cooperatives, price monitoring, essential commodity availability, consumer movement and control of statutory bodies and also responsible for Consumer Protection Act (2019).

Today's discussions between DoCA, ASCI and other unnamed stakeholders will be broadly based on the impact of fake and misleading reviews on consumers and possible measures to prevent such anomaly. Secretary of DoCA — Shri 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.

Along with the letter, Shri Singh has also shared a Press Release of European Commission dated January 20th, 2022 highlighting results of an EU-wide screening on online consumer reviews across 223 major websites. The screening results underlines that at least 55% of the websites violate the unfair commercial Practices Directive of the E.U. 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 letter states — "It is relevant to mention that with growing internet and smartphone use, consumers are increasingly shopping online to purchase goods and services. 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 user who have already purchased the goods or service. 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."

‘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 letter states.

In September 2020, Britain's competition reported that Facebook and eBay removed hundreds of accounts, pages and groups involved in the illicit business of fake reviews.


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