The National Consumer Helpline had declared that ecommerce sector receives highest consumers’ complaints. And now to manage the surge in complaints, the government has decided to set up a grievance redressal unit.
Efforts are being made to identify fake/fraud portals and also find out if any of the companies are breaking rules.
“These companies are registered in states. If they are violative of any state rules, if their addresses and phone numbers are fake, these are local-level investigations which need to be carried out by the state governments,” said Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
The Ministry of Commerce & Industry and the Consumer Affairs Ministry along with the independent state governments will work together to solve these issues.
“The commerce minister said her ministry was getting many consumer complaints against e-commerce firms. We discussed the ways to sort out such complaints. We decided to jointly address the complaints related to e-commerce,” said Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan.
200 ecommerce companies under DIPP’s watch
After the commerce and consumer affairs ministry intervened, over 200 firms are being scrutinized by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP).
These companies are under radar for:
- Being bogus firms
- Fake/defective products as per consumer complaints
- Violating FDI rules as per offline retailers and seller associations’ complaints
“Our department does not deal with consumer complaints. However, this issue is complicated as many of the companies in question seem non-existent…we will look into it together with the consumer affairs ministry… We had held a meeting with the Enforcement Directorate as well on this matter…ecommerce companies were also asked if they were operating in an inventory and not the marketplace model,” asserted Sitharaman.
What about sellers’ grievances?
Ecommerce being a relatively new industry and that too a fast-evolving one, government and regulatory authorities have struggled to keep a close watch on the many mushrooming ecommerce firms.
There isn’t a dedicated system to probe ecommerce consumer complaints and violations, which is why three government ministries have to work together to find solutions and handle disgruntled customers.
But there’s a need for a grievance redressal mechanism that can look after sellers’ complaints as well.
The All India Online Vendors Association (AIOVA) has been demanding for a regulatory body for FDI funded marketplaces to monitor the guidelines framed by DIPP and to create a grievance cell for sellers.
Will (and when) the government look into sellers’ demand after consumers?