E-Commerce Web site Components Photo: Sam Solutions

E-Commerce: Regulator finalises draft rules to counter fake reviews, unverified ratings

*Rohit Kumar Singh, Secretary of Department of Consumer Affairs, discloses the Indian Government is set to release the draft guidelines on how to counter fake reviews and unverified star ratings on e-commerce Web sites, as well as travel and hotel bookings platforms

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

In a renewed effort at ensuring traceability and legitimacy of product and service reviews to protect digital consumers, the Indian Government has finalised a draft framework of guidelines on how to counter fake reviews and unverified star ratings on e-commerce Web sites, and travel and hotel bookings platforms.

It was learnt Rohit Kumar Singh, Secretary, Department of Consumer Affairs, disclosed this development in an exclusive interview with ET’s podcast series, The Morning Brief.

Singh noted that the government is currently consulting with e-commerce firms to find consensus on the matter.

According to the Secretary, Department of Consumer Affairs, the guidelines would be released shortly.

He also stated: “The main issue is traceability and legitimacy of the reviews and ratings — whether the person who’s written the review is actually the user.

“Hotels and travel reviews are the biggest defaulters on this.”

The framework has been developed by the Department of Consumer Affairs (DoCA) over the past few months, report said.

Why now?

E-commerce, reportedly,  has boomed in the country since the start of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

A report by Redseer Strategy Consultants was quoted to have said that online sales during the festive season would hit $11.8 billion 2022, a 28 percent increase over last year.

Singh further said: “This is the right time to address such issues because e-commerce prevalence has been increasing and more and more people are shopping online.”

The Indian Government, he noted, is also looking to clamp down on product placement in movies.

“I saw the movie Darlings on Netflix, and there were some 20 products placed there, which is a new surrogate way of advertising. This is a new challenge for us,” stated the Secretary of Consumer Affairs.

In regard to the existing guidelines on advertising to children, which look to clamp down on bullying, body shaming, and the promotion of junk food online, Singh said these were “more in the form of deterrents”, and a set of officers were monitoring all platforms.

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