Govt to soon crack down on fake reviews, proposes quality control for e- commerce companies

Govt to soon crack down on fake reviews, proposes quality control for e- commerce companies

Govt to soon crack down on fake reviews, proposes quality control for e- commerce companies

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It is human habit in this digital age to scroll through all the reviews before making an online purchase, but a lot of times these reviews are paid and fake.

16 May 2024

By Khushi Maheshwari

On Wednesday, the Department of Consumer Affairs convened a stakeholder meeting with e-commerce companies to discuss how to protect consumers’ interests from fraudulent online evaluations.

Leading e-commerce companies in India have expressed support for the government’s initiative to establish quality standards for consumer evaluations, which was announced by the Consumer Affairs Department. 

The amount of consumer complaints about e-commerce filed with the NCH has increased dramatically, it stated. The number of grievances has increased from 95,270 in 2018 (22%) to 444,034 in 2023 (43%). The Consumer Department stated that the appearance of phoney reviews online undermines the reliability and authenticity of shopping platforms, thereby leading consumers to make poor purchasing judgments.

Because e-commerce provides a digital purchasing environment in which consumers cannot physically scrutinise things, they rely significantly on evaluations posted on these platforms to obtain insights and learn from the experiences of past purchases, the report stated.

According to Mordor Intelligence, India’s e-commerce market is predicted to reach $112.93 billion in 2024 and $299.01 billion by 2029, rising at a compound annual growth rate of 21.5% during this period.

During a gathering in New Delhi, delegates from prominent platforms such as Amazon, Flipkart, Google and Meta, among others, expressed their support for the proposed quality control measures aimed at implementing the IS 19000:2022 standard for ‘online consumer reviews’, as detailed in a press release issued by the Department. There was an agreement that the order is vital to protect consumer interests from deceptive reviews on shopping websites and apps, it said, adding that the draft order will be made available for public consultation.

The Department said in a statement that the discussion on moving towards a Quality Control Order for IS 19000:2022 was welcomed by stakeholders, and there was general agreement among all stakeholders that the issue of fake reviews is critical to protecting consumer interests when shopping online and must be closely monitored. 

Consumer Affairs Secretary Nidhi Khare chaired the meeting and stated that the guideline was crucial because online customers rely largely on evaluations for items they cannot physically verify.

Khare argued that e-commerce platforms operating in India should develop a written code of conduct that is shared and available to all employees. They must also demonstrate how this agreement and its guiding ideas will be followed and sustained.

According to a Hindustan Times study, the Consumer Affairs Ministry discovered that false reviews have the most impact on online customers in the hotel, tour and travel, and food and beverage industries. The proposed Quality Control Order (QCO) prevents organisations from publishing biased consumer reviews online, modifying reviews to change their message, and prohibiting or discouraging unfavourable review submissions. The standard also assigns particular tasks to review writers and administrators. The press statement stated that it requires review authors to be recognised, prohibits changing reviews to change messaging, and forbids suppressing or discouraging unfavourable reviews.

A year ago, the government imposed quality standards for e-tailers, forbidding them from publishing purchased evaluations and requiring disclosure of such promotional content. However, the norms were voluntary in character. While hailing the move, consumer campaigner Pushpa Girimji stated that the “enforceability” of such criteria would be critical in effectively combating the threat of bogus reviews.