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Centre launches framework on fake and deceptive reviews in e-commerce

Verification of review author, Moderation and Publication process among provisions of the Standard Conformity Assessment Scheme for the framework to be developed in 15 days

SNS | New Delhi |

The Department of Consumer Affairs launched the framework for safeguarding and protecting consumer interest from fake and deceptive reviews in e-commerce on Wednesday.

The framework titled Indian Standard (IS) 19000:2022 ‘Online Consumer Reviews — Principles and Requirements for their Collection, Moderation, and Publication. The standards will be applicable to every online platform which publishes consumer reviews.

The standard will initially be voluntary for compliance by all e-commerce platforms. BIS will also develop a Conformity Assessment Scheme for the standard to assess compliance, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution said in a statement. 

It further added that the guiding principles of the standard are integrity, accuracy, privacy, security, transparency, accessibility, and responsiveness. The standard prescribes specific responsibilities for the review author and the review administrator.

For the review author, these include confirming acceptance of terms and conditions, and providing contact information, and for the review administrator, these include safeguarding personal information and training staff.

Once made mandatory, if required, the violation of the standards by any entity may be considered as an unfair trade practice or violation of consumer rights and a consumer may submit such grievances to the National Consumer Helpline, Consumer Commissions, or the CCPA, said the Ministry. 

The standard provides for the responsibilities of an organization including developing a code of practice, and necessary stipulations for terms and conditions like accessibility, criteria, and ensuring content does not contain financial information, etc.

The standard also provides for methods for verification of the review author through email address, identification by telephone call or SMS, confirming registration by clicking on a link, using a captcha system, etc. to check the traceability and genuineness of the review author.

With respect to moderation, the standard provides for both automated and manual moderation and provides checks for analyzing the review content. As regards to publication, the standard includes considerations for the review administrator at the time of publication process and after the publication process. The accuracy of the review, default display, and weightage of ratings are defined in the publication process.

Over the last few years, there has been a steady rise in e-commerce transactions across the country. Reviews posted online plays a significant role in making purchase decisions. Consumers exceedingly rely on reviews posted on e-commerce platforms to see the opinion and experiences of users who have already purchased the good or service.

Given that e-commerce involves a virtual shopping experience without any opportunity to physically view or examine the product, it is essential that reviews are genuine, authentic, and trustworthy.

Taking cognizance of the impact of fake and deceptive reviews and protection of consumer interest in e-commerce, the Department of Consumer Affairs constituted a committee to develop a framework for checking fake and deceptive reviews in e-commerce on 10th June 2022. The committee included various stakeholders including e-commerce companies, industry associations, consumer organizations, and law chairs.

Rohit Kumar Singh, Secretary, the Department of Consumer Affairs, along with senior officers of the department and the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) were present during the launch event.