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Government says it has ‘no obligation’ to take action on USTR report on counterfeiting by Indians on e-commerce platforms

In response to BJP MP Gangasandra Siddappa Basavaraj’s question on “a recent report released by the US Trade Representative (USTR) include flea markets in New Delhi and Mumbai and also an e-commerce platform operating in India for selling fake goods, involving counter-feiting and piracy,” the government responded in parliament that it had “India is under no obligation to take action based on reports being generated by independent sovereigns,” and that the USTR’s report was “specific to addressing concerns of American consumers”.

“However, Central Government has been taking active steps to control the menace of counterfeiting and piracy,” the response by the government was quick to add. “Several initiatives to strengthen enforcement agencies through regular training and sensitization programs have been undertaken by the Cell for IPR Promotion and Management (CIPAM) with Police, Customs and Judiciary.”

The USTR report Basavaraj mentioned named Snapdeal as a seller of such counterfeit products; the company accused the USTR of blurring the distinction between online marketplaces and sellers. Robert Lighthizer was the US Trade Representative at the time of the report’s publication; US President Joe Biden has nominated attorney Katherine Tai as the trade representative under his administration.

Full question and answer

Will the Minister of CONSUMER AFFAIRS, FOOD AND PUBLIC DISTRIBUTION be pleased to state:-

(a) whether a recent report released by the US Trade Representative (USTR) include flea markets in New Delhi and Mumbai and also an e-commerce platform operating in India for selling fake goods, involving counter-feiting and piracy and if so, the details thereof;

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(b) whether the Consumer Courts have been entertaining complaints from buyers about fake goods sold in flea markets, if so, the details thereof;

(c) whether the Consumer Courts have received complaints, emanating from 37% of the purchasers about the quality of the goods as sub-standard and the labels, fake and counter-feited imitating top brands; and

(d) whether awards have been given to consumers as rightful compensation, if so, the details thereof?

ANSWER: THE MINISTER OF STATE, CONSUMER AFFAIRS, FOOD AND PUBLIC DISTRIBUTION (SHRI DANVE RAOSAHEB DADARAO)

(a) : As informed by Department for Promotion of Industry & Internal Trade, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) released the findings of its Annual Special 301 Report on Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy (the Notorious Markets List), on January 14, 2021, which highlights online and physical markets that reportedly engage in or facilitate substantial trademark counterfeiting and copyright piracy.

Observations in the report are specific to addressing concerns of American consumers and it may be noted that India is under no obligation, to take action based on reports being generated by independent sovereigns. However, Central Government has been taking active steps to control the menace of counterfeiting and piracy. Several initiatives to strengthen enforcement agencies through regular training and sensitization programs have been undertaken by the Cell for IPR Promotion and Management (CIPAM) with Police, Customs and Judiciary. Apart from creating legal deterrence, a large number of awareness and sensitization programmes are carried out to encourage customers to buy original products and inform them about the consequences of buying fake and counterfeit products.

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(b) & (c) : Consumer Commissions entertain all types of consumer complaints, including complaints from buyers about fake goods, in terms of the various provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019. However, no separate data with regard to such Consumer Complaints is maintained.

(d) : Every consumer case is decided / disposed of by the Consumer Commissions on the basis of facts & circumstances of each case and in terms of the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act 2019. The Consumer Commissions are empowered to give relief of a specific nature and award, wherever appropriate, compensation to consumers.

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I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

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