Centre sets standard for e-commerce reviews

The framework will be rolled out on November 25; it may become mandatory after a trial for some days and will be applicable to every online platform that publishes consumer ratings

The Centre is bringing out a standard for publishing product reviews on e-commerce platforms from Friday. To start with, the standard will be voluntary, but could become mandatory later after observing compliance with the standard by such platforms. The framework for the standard was prepared by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS).

Rohit Kumar Singh, Secretary of the Department of Consumer Affairs, told presspersons on Monday that the framework was meant to safeguard and protect consumer interest from fake and deceptive reviews on e-commerce platforms. If made mandatory, the violation of the standard, titled “Indian Standard (IS) 19000:2022 Online Consumer Reviews — Principles and Requirements for their Collection, Moderation and Publication”, can invite punishment for unfair trade practice or violation of consumer rights. Once made mandatory, a consumer may submit grievances to the National Consumer Helpline, consumer commission or the CCPA, against misleading reviews. “The standards will be applicable to every online platform which publishes consumer reviews,” Mr. Singh said.

The guiding principles of the standard are integrity, accuracy, privacy, security, transparency, accessibility and responsiveness, he said. “The standard prescribes specific responsibilities for the review author and the review administrator. For the former, these include confirming acceptance of terms and conditions, providing contact information, and for review administrator, these include safeguarding personal information and training of staff,” Mr. Singh added.

The standard also provides for methods for verification of the review author to check the traceability and genuineness of the review author. “The standard is expected to benefit all stakeholders in the e-commerce ecosystem, that is, consumers, e-commerce platforms, sellers, etc. It will help usher in confidence among consumers to purchase goods online and help them take better purchase decisions,” the Secretary said.

Taking cognisance of the impact of fake and deceptive reviews and protection of consumer interest in e-commerce, the Department of Consumer Affairs constituted a committee to develop a framework for checking fake and deceptive reviews on June 10, 2022.

Mr. Singh said the BIS had consulted all e-platform giants before drafting the guidelines, and responses from the public were also invited. He said the BIS will come out with a certification process in the next 15 days to check whether a company was complying with these standards. “E-commerce players can apply for certification of this standard with the BSI. Many other countries are also struggling on how to handle fake reviews,” he said, and added that the Ministry does not want to bulldoze the industry.