Consumer Affairs Ministry Says Will Develop Framework to Protect Online Consumers From Fake Reviews

On Saturday, the government said it would set up a framework to monitor fake reviews posted on e-commerce websites to protect consumer interest. The Ministry of Consumer Affairs along with the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) held a virtual meeting on Friday with stakeholders, including e-commerce entities, to discuss the scale of fake reviews on their platforms.

Fake comments mislead consumers to buy products and services online.

According to an official statement, the Department of Consumer Affairs (DoCA) will develop these frameworks after studying the current mechanism followed by e-commerce entities in India and the best practices available globally.

Consumer forums, law universities, lawyers, FICCI, CII, and consumer rights activists, among others, participated in the meeting to discuss the scale of the problem and a roadmap for fake reviews on websites.

Since e-commerce involves a virtual shopping experience without any opportunity to actually view or inspect the product, consumers rely heavily on reviews posted on platforms to know the opinion and experience of users who have already purchased the goods or service.

“Traceability by ensuring the credibility of references and accountability associated with the platform are two key issues here. Also, e-commerce players must disclose how they choose the ‘most relevant reviews’ to present them in a fair and transparent manner,” Consumer Affairs Minister Rohit Kumar Singh said.

The statement said all stakeholders agreed that the issue deserves close monitoring and an appropriate framework governing fake reviews should be developed to protect consumer interests.

She added that stakeholders from e-commerce companies have claimed to have frameworks in place through which they can monitor fake reviews and would be happy to participate in developing a legal framework on the issue.

The meeting was also attended by Nidhi Khair, Additional Secretary, and Anupam Mishra, Joint Secretary of the Consumer Affairs Department.

Manisha Kapoor, CEO of ASCI, highlighted the categories of fake and misleading reviews and their impact on consumer interest.

Issues discussed at the meeting included how paid reviews, unverifiable reviews, and lack of disclosure in the case of incentivized reviews make it difficult for consumers to recognize real reviews.

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