New Ecommerce Rules for Streaming Service

The government is looking to expand the scope of its upcoming ecommerce guidelines for consumer protection to include sections on services such as video streaming, online ticket booking and ride hailing, apart from regulating the sale of physical goods online.

The consumer affairs ministry would update the draft ecommerce guidelines it had released last month, a senior government official said. “What has come is only a preliminary draft, it is being revised and will be posted once again to get public comments,” the person told ET.

While the original draft guidelines did say online sales of both goods and services would fall under its ambit, the rules were largely aimed at regulating the sale and quality of service on platforms such as Flipkart, Amazon and Snapdeal, which act as intermediaries between sellers and consumers.

“While there’s not too much ambiguity on the product side, on the services front there are many different sectors we will have to take into account,” the official said.

The revised draft would contain specific rules for different online services as problems consumers face are quite different between services, the person said. It could be out as early as the first week of October, with the deadline for submitting feedback already being extended to October 31.

The consumer affairs ministry also plans to introduce a self-declaration form for sellers to guarantee the authenticity of goods and services being sold online — be it businesses selling to consumers through ecommerce marketplaces, or consumers selling to consumers through online classifieds such as Olx and Quikr.

A person consulting with the ministry on the framing of the guidelines said platforms should display if a seller has declared the goods or services they are selling are genuine.

“Whether it affects buying decision or not, consumers should be shown the information,” the person said. “Self declaration is far easier than implementing KYC to authenticate every online seller.”

LocalCircles, a platform for consumer feedback, said it received over 63,000 responses from the public on the draft ecommerce guidelines for consumer protection. One of the big suggestions that the platform gathered from its users was that the government should include services in the definition of ecommerce.

LocalCircles, which has already submitted its feedback to the ministry, identified 15 online services that should be included in the draft policy, including carpooling, payment and other financial services, matchmaking, ticketing, and gaming.

“The guidelines for services should be such that they empower the consumer with key information about the terms of service, details about the service provider and their liabilities,” said Sachin Taparia, Founder and Chairman of LocalCircles. “They should also have a grievance redressal mechanism which should be easily accessible to the consumer on the app or website.”

While the revised draft will come with added sections on online services, the consumer affairs ministry is likely to omit rules for the protection of a consumer’s data. “We will not give any guidelines for data protection,” said the government official cited earlier. “I think that is a much larger issue and is coming under the IT Act.”