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Unresolved Complaints: Remedies available against the E-Commerce Platforms

If any person had purchased a product online in India, he or she must have faced a doubtful (WHAT IF) scenario in their minds like:

  1. What if the product is fake or is substandard? or worst
  2. What if the product ordered is exchanged by any bogus product?

We also have faced many problems after we have ordered any product online especially on E-Commerce websites (like Flipkart and Amazon) like Delivery time, Unilaterally Cancellation of Order etc.

While many of you have contacted them through E-Mails or wasted hours on their Customer Care No., I bet many of you are still unsatisfied by their services and felt helpless. Don't Worry, the Government has now taken many steps to bring the E-Commerce services under the purview of Newly Enacted Consumer Protection Act which includes Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020 (Herein after refereed as ‘The Rules'). For ease of understanding, I have written this article in the form of FAQ's. The Following Step should be taken by any consumer if he/she feels aggrieved by not getting a proper response from customer care.

  1. To whom the Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020 apply?
    The Rules apply to E-Commerce Entities (Like Amazon, Myntra), Marketplace E-Commerce Entities (Like eBay), Sellers on Marketplace E-Commerce Entities (Like Cloudtail on Amazon) and Inventory E-Commerce Entities (Like Zara.com).
     
  2. Whom should we approach if Customer Care of any above entity does not provide adequate relief or they are not replying to your query?
    The Rules provide for the establishment of grievance redressal mechanism in E-Commerce Entity. Every Entity has to appoint a Grievance/Nodal Officer for the grievance of Customers. Such an officer has to acknowledge the complaint within 48 hours of receipt of information. Also, the officer has to redress the complaint within 1 month from the date of receipt a complaint.

    A ticket number has to be issued by the grievance offer so can you can check the status of the complaint.

    Currently Amazon had setup grievance redressal mechanism and can be accessed on https://www.amazon.in/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=202134240
     
  3. What kind of complaints can be lodged to Grievance/Nodal Officer?
    The Complaint can be about quality, quantity, price, appearance, nature, purpose, term and conditions, express warranty and other general feature of product and service. Apart from this a complaint can be lodged for cancellation charge of order with respect to product. It is important to mention that cancellation charge can be imposed only if similar charges are also borne by the e- commerce entity, if they cancel the purchase order unilaterally for any reason.

    Please note that you cannot lodge a complaint in case of late delivery of product due to any circumstances beyond the control of the E-Commerce Entity.
     
  4. What other disclosure have to be made by Ecommerce entity about Product/Service on their Website/App?
    The Sellers on Marketplace E-Commerce Entities and Inventory E-Commerce Entities have to make following disclosures:
    1. accurate information related to return, refund, exchange, warranty and guarantee, delivery and shipment, cost of return shipping, mode of payments, grievance redressal mechanism, and any other similar information which may be required by consumers to make informed decisions;
       
    2. information on available payment methods, the security of those payment methods, the procedure to cancel regular payments under those methods, any fees or charges payable by users, charge back options, if any, and the contact information of the relevant payment service provider;
       
    3. all relevant details about the goods and services offered for sale by the seller including country of origin which are necessary for enabling the consumer to make an informed decision at the pre-purchase stage;
       
    4. total price in a single figure of any good or service along with the breakup price for the good or service, showing all the compulsory and voluntary charges, such as delivery charges, postage and handling charges, conveyance charges and the applicable tax;
       
    5. Now, every E-commerce Entity have to obtain explicit consent for any product/service offered and they cannot not record consent automatically including pre-ticked checkboxes.
       
  5. What other options are available if Grievance/Nodal officer does not redress your complaint or worse does not acknowledge the complaint?
    The aggrieved customer can approach District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (DCDRC) or Consumer Court as in common parlance within 2 Years of Complaint.

    However, it would be viable to send a legal notice through an Advocate before filing a complaint before DCDRC. The Complaint before DCDRC can be filed in a District, where the complainant resides. The Complainant will have to pay to nominal fee of about Rs. 500 for filing a complaint.
     
  6. How much time is expected to resolve a complaint before DCDRC?
    The Consumer protection Act, 2019 provides for timelines for deciding the complaints before DCDRC. The Act provides for 3-month's period for resolving however, the hearing could go well beyond this period. It is generally observed that a complaint takes 6months- 1year.
     
  7. Does the complainant have to appear on every hearing before DCDRC?
    No, the complainant would not be required to appear before DCDRC in every hearing, provided if he/she have retained an advocate on his/her behalf. Moreover, a complainant can also choose to represent himself/herself before DCRDC however, it is advisable to hire an advocate.
     
  8. What kind of relief does DCDRC provides to complainant?
    The DCDRC has a wide array of powers. It can grant a replacement of product and refund an amount paid in consideration of product/service. Further, it can also provide damages in case of physical hurt and harassment. Apart from these, consumer court can also grant litigation fees to be paid by the respondent.
     
  9. What other things should be kept in mind before filing a complaint before DCDRC and Grievance/ Nodal Officer?
    1. The Consumer must have a printed copy of the Bill (Please get it printed if it emailed to you). If you have purchased the product for someone else please make sure to mention their name on Bill.
    2. Please do not get the product checked or repaired with some unauthorized person as it will lead to void of warranty.
    3. Please make sure to take prompt action in case you face any difficulty in product. Don't wait for last minute relief.
    4. In case the product or service has caused harm to you physically, you are entitled to get damages under Product Liability Clause of Consumer Protection Act, 2019.

While the Government has certainly done a good job by bringing specific E-commerce rules, however it remains to be seen how this rule can bring change to E-commerce industry and how they deal with the consumers.

Featured Image Credits- Photo by Mark König on Unsplash

Written By: Chirag Singla

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