E-commerce guidelines, which are currently advisory in nature, will become mandatory for the firms dabbling in online business once the rules are framed for the recently passed Consumer Protection Act, 2019, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Ram Vilas Paswan, said here on Tuesday.
The Minister, who convened a meeting of Members of Parliament who participated in the discussions on the Act in Parliament as well as other experts to brainstorm on the proposed rules, said the Ministry would invite suggestions on the rules by September 15 and the rules would be notified by December.
The e-commerce rules have become important because of the explosive growth being witnessed by the sector due to the increase in the number of online users, growing penetration of smartphones and the rising popularity of social media platforms. According to a recent Morgan Stanley report, the e-commerce sector in India is estimated to reach $230 billion by 2028, accounting for 10 per cent of India’s retail trade.
He said there is no ambiguity whether medical care and hospitals would come under the purview of the new Consumer Protection Act, unlike the previous Act enacted in 1986. The new Act will cover all the services, even if all of them have not been listed in the Act, the Minister explained.
“Not specifically mentioning healthcare in the definition of service will not make any difference to its applicability considering that the definition of service mentions few kind of services but is not limited to those specifically mentioned,” the Ministry of Consumer Affairs officials present at the meeting said. Further clarifying they said, the Act defines ‘consumer’ as a person who buys any goods or hires or avails any service for a consideration. So, all paid services would be covered and the free services are excluded, they added.
Apart from healthcare, education, banking and electricity are also under the ambit of the Act.
The meeting also discussed the e-commerce at length. According to a document circulated for the meeting, “The (e-commerce) guidelines, which will be converted to Rules, endeavour to take care of the interests of consumers prior to purchase, at the time of purchase, post-purchase and provide for the grievance redressal mechanism.”
Accordingly, the e-commerce entities need to display terms of contract with the seller relating to return, refund, exchange, warranty/guarantee, delivery/shipment mode of payment and grievance redressal mechanism, it said. As per the circulated draft guidelines, the e-commerce firms have to give a 14-day deadline for refund requests, display details of sellers supplying goods and services on their Websites and moot the procedure to resolve consumer complaints.
Later, talking to the media, Paswan said all suggestions received within the stipulated time period will be considered within the legal framework while drafting the rules and regulations.
Among the MPS who participated in the discussions were former BJP Minister Vijay Goel, Aam Aadmi Party Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh and CPI MP Binoy Viswam.―The Hindu Business Line