This article is written by Girija Rani Mullapudi
What makes one an e-commerce consumer? Any activity which has one ordering a product or service online, regardless of its payment method can make them an e-commerce consumer. It ranges from purchasing a product from a website, app, television shopping program, to even an unregistered company, such as a Facebook page selling earrings. Any and every product can be sold and bought on the internet, starting from phones and books, utilities and even digital goods such as applications and consumption licenses; and they all can be considered to be the part of e-commerce.
A market-based or inventory-based approach may be used by the e-commerce business from which you purchase. The former has goods or services manufactured by the same corporation and sold online, such as the furniture company PepperFry’s online shopping service or the airline company Indigo’s ticket booking site. In the market-based paradigm, the e-commerce business acts as a platform for various businesses’ goods and services. The website serves only as a conduit for the trade. Examples include Flipkart and MakeMyTrip.
Consumer Protection Act, 1986
The Consumer Protection Law 2019, which went into effect on July 20, 2020, contains specific guidelines for e-commerce businesses and online retailers. The government has asked e-commerce companies to ensure that their grievance officers accept every consumer complaint within 48 hours and resolve it within one month in order to prevent consumers from being duped on e-commerce platforms.
The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food, and Public Distribution has issued a new set of consumer protection e-commerce regulations, which prohibits e-commerce companies from enforcing cancellation fees on customers who return goods or services they have ordered unless the company bears equivalent fees. The government also stated that showing the country of origin would be needed so that consumers can make an informed decision at the pre-purchase stage.
IT Amendment Act, 2008
E-commerce aids in paving the way for digital transactions, resulting in writing and signatures no longer being used as legal evidence. In such a case, regulatory changes in e-commerce are needed. This act has a significant impact on the legal infrastructure as well as the laws and regulations that govern how the E-Commerce sector operates, and this act was required in order to protect customers’ privacy and security issues. This law governs the processing, handling, and dissemination of personal information collected by visitors to an e-commerce website.
The following three legal agreements must be used by any online ecommerce business:
Policy on Returns, Cancellations, and Refunds: This agreement is used to remind a buyer of the return and termination policies of an ecommerce website. The first section of this essay discussed the need for and application of such a policy.
Terms & Conditions: This is a voluntary partnership that sets out standards and regulations for consumer registration, use, and access to an ecommerce website. A terms of service arrangement binds the parties that commit to it lawfully. The essay ‘Why does a website need a disclaimer?’ goes into more detail on this.
What If the Online Store Refuses to Issue a Refund?
If you pay for your online order with a credit card and the redemption period has not yet expired, you can contact your credit card issuer to refund your money on your behalf. This is referred to as chargeback.
You can send letters instead of contacting goods suppliers because a written letter is considered more credible and can be used to bring a lawsuit against the retailer in a customer court.
If your complaints are not settled, you have one more option: go to the consumer forum or the consumer court and file a complaint against the retailer.
Determine if the E-Commerce firm or the retailer is at fault, and then take corrective steps. In the event of a defective product, the retailer is ultimately responsible for refunding your money.
According to the Information Technology Act, every e-commerce organization must have a grievance officer, whose contact information should be posted on the company website. Bring your complaint to this officer’s attention., on the other hand, claims that many businesses are ignorant of the requirement for a complaints officer.
Any e-commerce firms have an arbitration clause in place that will assist in resolving the issue.
If none of these solutions work, get the dealer’s and manufacturer’s/service provider’s names and addresses. Complain to each of them in writing, plainly outlining the essence of the issue, evidence of purchase, and the relief you need. Insist on a written response from them, and set a deadline for them to respond.
Send the letter via registered mail so that you can get confirmation of receipt. You can file a complaint with any of these entities that the product defect could have happened at some point in the supply chain, and one of them could be to blame.
If you haven’t had a response by the deadline, contact the consumer forum or board. If necessary, get assistance from a local consumer organization. E-commerce customers will file lawsuits at their local consumer forum, according to a Supreme Court order from August 2017. While the Consumer Protection Act forbids it, the SC had issued the order for the convenience of online shoppers. “In certain cases, e-commerce firms that serve as intermediaries attempt to shift the blame to the manufacturer by claiming that the invoice is ultimately directed to them. However, some clauses, such as those found in the IT Act, mandate e-commerce firms to practice due diligence.”
In certain cases, e-commerce intermediaries tend to shift the blame to the manufacturer by claiming that the invoice is ultimately made to them. However, some rules, such as those found in the IT Act, mandate e-commerce businesses to practice due diligence.
Does your website need a disclaimer? LEGAL DESK (last visited May 10, 2021) https://legaldesk.com/does-your-website-need-a-disclaimer
Samrat Sharma , No more cheating on online shopping; govt notifies e-commerce rules on cancellation charges, complaints, more, FINANCIAL EXPRESS, July 24, 2020, https://www.financialexpress.com/industry/sme/no-more-cheating-on-online-shopping-govt-notifies-e-commerce-rules-on-cancellation-charges-complaints-more/2033852/
Rahul Nag, A Missing Regulation Allowing Online Shopping Sites’ To Play With Refund Timelines?, TRAK.IN, June 7 2017, https://trak.in/tags/business/2017/06/08/ecommerce-sites-refund-policy-unfair-practices/.
Curated by Shivanshika Samaddar of National Law University, Delhi.