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148 notices on e-commerce firms for violating country of origin norms

The Centre has slapped as many as 148 notices on e-commerce players in the past three months for not complying with the mandatory display of the ‘country of origin’ tag on products sold.

“Of the 148 notices, 56 have compounded it (the offence) and paid up around Rs 34 lakh,” a senior official told Business Standard. “Every product has to display the country of origin, along with other basic information,” the official added.

In the case of e-commerce companies, these details have to be clearly displayed on their portals. “Companies are given a chance to explain their case and asked exactly where one can find the product details (online),” the official said.

Last year, the government made it compulsory for all vendors selling on marketplaces such as Amazon and Flipkart to mention the name and details of any importer or seller to help consumers make an informed choice before buying a product.

The move had come amid tensions at the border between India and China and a rising clamour for boycotting Chinese goods in the country.

According to the Legal Metrology Act, such violations can result in a penalty of up to Rs 1 lakh each.

Rameesh Kailasam, chief executive officer of think tank India Tech, said various laws, including the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011, and the Geographical Indications of Goods Registration and Protection Act, 1999, already required the declaration of country of origin for goods.

“The Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules 2020, notified by the consumer affairs ministry, further require the display of the country of origin alongside product listings. However, the enforcement mechanism for this lies primarily with the government and consumers as it would be tough to catch any misrepresentation by a seller on a platform unless brought to one’s notice,” Kailasam said.

Adequate mechanisms and triggers should be put in place by platforms to ensure that once such mismatches are pointed out, appropriate corrective actions are taken to prevent future misrepresentations, he added.

Traders’ associations such as the Confederation of All India Traders had in January urged the government to take action against e-commerce behemoths for violating norms pertaining to mandatory display of the ‘country of origin’ tag. Business Standard

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