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Enhancing Consumer Protection in the Digital Marketplace: A Glance at the Influence of Clickwrap Agreements on Fairness and Enforcement

Along with the Indian economy welcoming the saga of digital revolution, the market extends to the virtual space as well. The online sales of electronic goods and digital services have registered an abnormal growth. This transformation has torn us apart many researchers to what clickwrap agreements now are omni present in the online transactions. These online contracts which are resulted by just a click, designate some new principles for the contractual justice and the consumer protection that we were accustomed to.

Understanding Clickwrap Agreements

Clickwrap agreements are electronic contracts a user signifies by clicking a button or checking a box often without familiarizing themselves with the lockbox. Examples include end-user license agreements, terms of service for online platform operators, and privacy policies used by the various platforms.

On a global scale, the states have a variety of interpretations on the acceptance of these contracts and as one of the basic rules of contracts, a promise to enter into an offer, consideration, and acceptance need to be present.[1]

In India, such contracts as a click-wrap agreements are legally covered under the provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and the Indian Contract Act, 1872. But the enforceability of such terms is dependent on whether it is clearly visible and agreed to upon by participating people. Striking cases e.g., that of Trimex International FZE Limited, Dubai v. Vedanta Aluminium Ltd, India laid ground to the unequivocal relevance of clickwrap agreements under the Indian law and elucidated the great importance of the clear acceptance of the same by the user.[2]

Consumer Rights in the Digital Age

The Consumer Protection Act, 2019, which fell under its domain made a special space for e-commerce and the digital transactions by restricting its implication through focusing on the protecting rights of consumers online. It requires the display, transparency, and dispute resolution of information services and goods on the internet.

With the rise of digital space, the existing consumer rights framework faces new challenges like privacy of data, fairness of T&C, and implementing standard contract. Information asymmetry as well customers' relatively feeble negotiating ability with digital products' suppliers sometimes result in consumers being left out in the cold.

The Impact of Clickwrap Agreements on Consumer Rights

The Indian judiciary regularly has come across different instances which point to the trouble of clickwrap contracts. For example, in the case of Ava Merchandising Solutions Pvt. Ltd. vs.,[3] though the enforceability of clickwrap agreement terms were scrutinized. The place more emphasis was given on the conspicuousness of an agreement terms and the opportunities available to the consumer in understanding the meaning of each term.

With clickwrap agreements the question of fairness also becomes a target. The long-term and intricate content of rigid rules of the game can lead to a power / information schism. By getting g the problem of proving the consumer's genuine consent to TC is also of enforcement difficulties. Other issues that come in the cross-border transactions regard the jurisdiction.

Regulatory and Legal Frameworks

Indian legal system has now started to find ways to deal with the vagaries of digital contracts using Information Technology Act and Consumer Protection Act, but the practice must be improved by detailed guidelines and reforms. A comparison of the system with the existing ones like the EU which has strong data breach protection laws including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) can teach us much. Considered reforms in click wrap scenarios might be mandatorily transparency and simplification of the agreements with the aim of weakening them. However, the agreements could be fair and understandable for consumers.[4]

The Future of Consumer Rights in the Digital Marketplace

Through technological improvements, authorities could accomplish the goal of improving consumer protection. AI is capable of security of consent in digital transactions and contract terms inspections, at the same time, the blockchain will ensure transparency, verifiability of the transaction and consent in the digital space. Policymakers should study these technologies and incorporate them into the structure of the consumer protection policies concerning the future of digital marketplaces in which the consumers will be properly protected.

With the increase of click-wrap agreements in India's digital marketplace, consumers gain an opportunity to tackle the challenges but also get a scope to discover the potentials of consumer protection. In the light of the increasing use of digital agreements, the necessity for the instituted and the digitized rules that are clear, enforceable, fair and just for all describes the paramount need. By the reference to them international best practices and adoption of tech solutions, India will turn out to be the digital marketplace where consumer rights are both protected and championed.

  1. The Effectiveness of Clickwrap for Legally Enforceable Agreements, DocuSign, (last visited Apr. 8, 2024).
  2. Arbitration Petition No. 10 OF 2009.
  3. ITA No. 5528/Del/2013.
  4. Supra note 1.

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