Safe-guarding Consumers' Interests in E-Commerce

The main objective of the project is to strongly recommend that the Government enacts specific regulations on e-commerce, and sets up an exclusive online consumer disputes redressal forum that would facilitate in resolving consumer disputes that arise with online traders across states and within the country.

 

India has been witnessing rapid growth in e-commerce for the past few decades with a multitude of new companies coming up. Improved safety in online/digital transaction and options such as cash-on-delivery has motivated Indian consumers to place their trust in online shopping. While there are several advantages of online shopping, consumers also face major problems that include issues around delivery, privacy infringement, lack of redress avenues, etc. Besides, the unique structure of the internet raises several judicial concerns.

The existing legal framework has its own limitations. With the internet having no national geographical limits, establishing cyber jurisdiction becomes a difficult task. And, in cross-border transactions, “applicable law” poses a serious issue. CAG’s earlier studies - ‘Assessment of potential trade abuse by Indian e-commerce websites’ and ‘Enhancing rights of online consumers in India’ revealed that there were several unfair trade practices that were prevalent due to the absence of explicit regulations and a regulatory body to assess and monitor on-line purchasing. Another issue that still remains unaddressed is the absence of an effective consumer dispute redressal mechanism, exclusively for e-consumers. Above all, consumer awareness about online shopping is much required to make informed decisions.