What’s the News: India’s Department of Consumer Affairs held a stakeholder consultation on November 15, 2023 to create a set of principles for the safe sale of goods by online platforms. As per a press release, the department has constituted a committee for drafting a ‘Safety Pledge’ that will come up with a report in two weeks. This is yet another form of e-commerce guidelines/ policies that have been a long time coming since 2021.
What is a Safety Pledge? The Product Safety Pledge is a voluntary commitment by online platforms to ensure the safety of goods sold to consumers. It seeks to protect consumers from the purchase of unsafe products available for sale on e-commerce platforms. Similar pledges have been implemented by the European Union (EU), Japan, Australia, South Korea, Canada as well.
Stakeholders keen on formulating a pledge: To create an Indian alternative to these principles, Rohit Kumar Singh, Secretary, Department of Consumer Affairs chaired Thursday’s consultation, which was attended by e-commerce platforms like Amazon, Flipkart, Meesho etc., industry associations such as CII, ASSOCHAM, FICCI, IAMAI, NASSCOM, voluntary consumer associations such as Mumbai Grahak Panchayat and Consumer Voice, and ‘Law chairs’ such as NLU Delhi and Chair on Consumer Law, NLSIU, Bengaluru.
The proposed principles of the Safety Pledge will include “detecting and preventing the sale of unsafe products, co-operating with statutory authorities responsible for product safety, raising consumer product safety awareness amongst third party sellers and empowering consumers on product safety issues.”
Does India need a Safety Pledge? The pledge can help companies take the necessary preventive measures in safe harbor cases. For example in May 2023, the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) issued orders against five e-commerce platforms for selling car seat belt alarm stopper clips that compromised the “life and safety of consumers.” Similarly, the CCPA issued an order against Amazon in August 2022, for selling low-quality pressure cookers. The absence of an e-commerce policy in this regard and the potential removal of safe harbor (as suggested by Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar) will further complicate such issues. A pledge may help companies navigate these uncertain waters.
India’s struggle with e-commerce regulation: The most recent discussion in terms of an overall policy was in June 2023 when the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) held an inter-ministerial consultation. In March 2022, Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce and Industry and Minister of Consumer Affairs, even aired the idea of self-regulation by the e-commerce industry, confessing that the government is struggling with the task.
- A New Ecommerce Policy Undergoing Inter-Ministerial Consultation, Says DPIIT
- Can The E-Commerce Industry Self-Regulate So That Government Role Can Be Minimal? Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal Asks
- India Announces Guidelines To Curb Fake Reviews On E-Commerce Platforms
- Amazon Seller Cloudtail Loses Appeal In Pressure Cooker Case
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