Update: Here are the statements provided by Amazon India & Flipkart to MediaNama.
Amazon India said that they have not yet received a notice from the court.
We take the issue of fake & counterfeit products being sold on our marketplace by sellers very seriously. Sellers are mandated to sell only genuine and original products on Amazon.in and they sign an undertaking to do so. If it is brought to our notice that sellers are using our marketplace platform to sell fake or counterfeit products, we work with the sellers to bring such products down from our website. In case of repeated offenders we do not hesitate to take strict action and may even go to the extent of delisting them from our marketplace.
A Flipkart spokesperson said that:
Flipkart is a marketplace which helps sellers connect with customers across the country. All our sellers are expected to adhere to certain guidelines if they sell with us. Any violation of these guidelines is taken very seriously. We take strict action against sellers who attract negative feedback about their service or are found to be engaged in selling products that are fake, in violation of copyright or any other applicable laws of the land.
Earlier: Pan-India saree distributor Shree Meena Creations has filed a lawsuit against Flipkart, Amazon and eBay, along with about two dozen sellers on these marketplaces for allegedly selling replicas of its copyrighted sarees, reports The Economic Times. The lawsuit was filed on March 20, 2015, but hasn’t yet been admitted in court – which means that the lawsuit can still possibly be dismissed when it comes before a judge.
Shree Meena Creations told the publication that its Joh Rivaaj branded sarees, which are priced between Rs 3600 and Rs 4 lakh, are being sold on these e-commerce marketplaces for Rs 1200 to Rs 2700. The Mumbai-based distributor also mentioned that its sarees are sold by retailers like Pothys and Kuraman Silk in Chennai, RS Brothers in Hyderabad, and many dealers in Chandni Chowk, Delhi among others. Shree Meena Creations is seeking monetary compensation through the lawsuit, and also wants these online marketplaces to stop selling the duplicate products. We’ve written to Flipkart and Amazon and will update once we hear back.
This isn’t the first time that e-commerce sites have come under the legal radar for allegedly selling fake or duplicate products:
– Earlier this year, Shopclues had been slapped with a legal notice from audio devices manufacturer Harman International, which sells speakers and headphones under the JBL brand, for selling fake and counterfeit products from various vendors on its website. L’Oreal, Tommy Hilfiger, Skullcandy and RayBan had also initiated legal actions against Shopclues in the Delhi High Court in connection with sale of counterfeit goods and the HC had granted interim injunctions against the website, restraining it or anyone associated with it from the use, manufacture, sale, supply or display of counterfeit goods of these brands.
– Allegedly fake Xiaomi Power Bank were being sold on Amazon India, last year. In fact, verified buyers had written reviews indicating that the product being sold was fake. More on this here.
This brings us back to the question: should online marketplaces (intermediaries) be held accountable for products sold by merchants via their platforms? In India, Section 79 offers safe harbor to intermediaries, as long as they act on complaints and do not knowingly allow the usage of their platform to break the law. So, legally these e-commerce marketplaces seems to be on safe ground, however as we have pointed out earlier there is a need for better understanding of the responsibility, accountability and liability of platforms, marketplaces and aggregators. There’s no doubt that online aggregators and marketplaces are good for consumers and competition. But then who is accountable, when things get screwed up? And what about the liability of these platforms?