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Govt to hold meeting with stakeholders over fake reviews on e-commerce sites

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The Department of Consumer Affairs (DoCA) along with the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) will hold a virtual meeting on Friday (May 27) with various stakeholders to gauge the magnitude of fake reviews on e-commerce platforms that mislead consumers into buying online services or products and also to prepare a roadmap ahead, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution said.

The discussions will be broadly based on the impact of fake and misleading reviews on consumers and possible measures to prevent such anomalies.

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In this regard, DoCA secretary Rohit Kumar Singh has written to all stakeholders like Flipkart, Amazon, Tata Sons, Reliance Retail and others, besides consumer forums, law universities, lawyers, FICCI, CII, consumer rights activists to participate in the meeting.

Along with the letter, Singh has also shared the results of a European Union-wide screening of online consumer reviews across 223 major websites.

The screening results underline that at least 55% of the websites violate the unfair commercial practices directive of the EU which requires truthful information to be presented to consumers to make an informed choice, the ministry said on Thursday.

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In the 144 out of the 223 websites checked, the authorities could not confirm that traders were doing enough to ensure that reviews were authentic, i.e., if they were posted by consumers who had actually used the product or service that was reviewed, it added.

The letter states, “It is relevant to mention that with growing internet and smartphone use, consumers are increasingly shopping online to purchase goods and services. Given that e-commerce involves a virtual shopping experience without any opportunity to physically view or examine the product, consumers heavily rely on reviews posted on e-commerce platforms to see the opinion and experience of user who have already purchased the goods or service. As a result, due to fake and misleading reviews, the right to be informed, which is a consumer right under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 is violated.”

“Since the issue impacts people shopping online on a daily basis and has a significant impact on their rights as a consumer, it is important that it is examined with greater scrutiny and detail,” the letter added.

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