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E-commerce firms back govt’s proposal to make anti-fake review rules mandatory

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The order is important to protect consumer interests from misleading reviews on shopping websites and apps

New Delhi: Major e-commerce companies in India on Wednesday backed the government’s proposal to make mandatory compliance with quality norms for consumer reviews, the consumer affairs department said on Wednesday.

At a meeting held here, representatives from Amazon, Flipkart, Google and Meta, among others, endorsed the proposed quality control order to implement the IS 19000:2022 standard on ‘online consumer reviews’, according to the department.

There was a consensus that the order is important to protect consumer interests from misleading reviews on shopping websites and apps, it said, adding that the draft order will be put up for public consultation.

“The discussion on moving towards a Quality Control Order for IS 19000:2022 was welcomed by stakeholders and there was a general consensus among all stakeholders that the issue of fake reviews is important to protect consumer interest while shopping online, and requires to be closely monitored,” the department said in a statement.

Chairing the meeting, Consumer Affairs Secretary Nidhi Khare said the standard was important as online shoppers heavily depend on reviews for purchases they cannot physically inspect.

“The presence of fake reviews online jeopardises the trustworthiness of platforms and can lead to wrong purchase decisions,” the statement said.

The standard prescribes specific responsibilities for review authors and administrators. It requires review authors to be identified, bars editing of reviews to alter messaging, and prohibits preventing or discouraging negative reviews.

The move comes after a voluntary push failed to effectively curb fake reviews. The department also saw a surge in e-commerce-related consumer complaints to 4,44,034 in 2023 from just 95,270 in 2018, making up 43% of the total grievances registered.

A year earlier, the government issued quality norms for e-tailers, prohibiting them from publishing paid reviews and demanding disclosure of such promotional content. But the norms were voluntary in nature.

While welcoming the move, consumer activist Pushpa Girimji, who was present at the meeting, said “enforceability” of such standards will be key to checking the menace of fake reviews effectively.

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