E Commerce: A New Era in Consumer Protection


Charles Clark once remarked, ‘the answer to the machine is in the machine.’ Though trade has too lived up to this and thus started off with the idea of e-commerce, however, the review of existing legal framework shows that it has failed to address the e-commerce needs. E-commerce being global and domestic in nature, efforts have been thoroughly made to ensure its protection.
In India, the Consumer Protection Act 1986 governs the relations between consumers and the provider of services/goods however there is no specific act regulates the online transactions.
Consumer Protection
The Consumer Protection Bill, 2015
The Consumer Protection Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on August 10, 2015. The bill proposes to replace the Consumer Protection Act 1986, and this shall also incorporate e-commerce.
Electronic Commerce or e-commerce involves trade and transactions, the information of which is transferred through the internet. There are three types of e-commerce:
B2B {business to business}.
B2C {business to commerce}.
C2C {commerce to commerce}.
This bill seeks to widen the ambit and modernize the law on consumer protection due to changes in the market. India is experiencing a robust growth in its e-commerce sector which has crossed 15 billion dollars. Ordinarily, any regulation is more likely to introduce complexity in the business.
The bill incorporates certain stringent penalties for the offenses committed by e-retailer. There is strong support for the passing of this bill and in light of modern circumstances; it seems to be an emergency. The new entrepreneurs, as well as the old ones, must understand the precisions of this bill that focuses well on the consumer protection for the internet age in India.
This bill targets those aspects of e-commerce business which are unethical and also misleading to the consumers. As there are many e-commerce companies in India be engaging in business malpractices and evading taxes, leading to a substantial loss of government revenue.
International Organizations

Many international organizations are working for the protection of the consumers. Some of them are— Economic Cooperation and Development, International Chamber of Commerce and International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network.

Economic Cooperation and Development {OECD}:
The guidelines sanctioned after intense negotiation in the context of e-commerce, proved much helpful to the government, consumers, and business and became practically feasible. They embraced flexibility in response to the development of age. The guidelines also achieved a benchmark for consumer protection in the online marketplace. They facilitate online trade, thereby not implementing any of the restrictive trade policies. Some of its universal guidelines for consumer protection in e-commerce are as follows.
E-commerce should get an equal protection, when shopping online or when buying the same goods from a local store.
Internet and Mobile Association of India has revealed that India’s e-commerce market reached USD 20 billion. The e-commerce has made a huge impact on most of the industries in India, the travel industry in particular. The government has promoted e-commerce extensively, which is, in fact, a promotion of the e-consumer activities, mainly focusing on the delivery of services. However, the legal control still has to catch up with supply.
There should be a complete disclosure about the goods and services rendered. The e- customers should be aware of the transaction, they have consented to. They should be having a complete knowledge of what they are buying and the transaction they are dealing with.
The confirmation process for sale should give a fair chance to the consumer for reviewing the products that he intends to buy, in case there is any cancellation.
Most importantly, the system of payments must be secure and reliable.
Following are some general principles that have been recommended and accepted universally, so as to protect the consumers in e-commerce:
• Consumers who participate in e-commerce should be provided with transparent and effective consumer protection that is affordable for which government and stakeholders might work together.
• Businesses should in no circumstance engage in making representation or practice anything that’s misleading or works to the right of the consumers.
• If a contract’s term stipulates the monetary damage to be furnished in the case of consumer’s violation of the contract, it should be ensured that such compensation is in proportion to the damage caused.
• Businesses should not restrict a consumer’s ability to make negative reviews, dispute charges or file complaints with government and other agencies.
• Advertising and marketing should be clearly identifiable as such
• Advertised price must not hide the total cost of a good or a service
• The payment made for the confirmation of a transaction must be clearly stated and not be ambiguous under any circumstances. Transactions in e-commerce can only process with the informed consent of the consumers.
• Businesses should enable the consumers to maintain a record of such transaction for future use as evidence or other things, as the case maybe
• Businesses must manage the digital security risk and implement security measures for reducing or mitigating adverse effects relating to e-commerce.
Technology is leaping with unmatched speed, today. As The consumer protection act 6 does not include any service that is free of charge in its ambit. Thus an online transaction that does not charge the consumers clearly remains unprotected by the consumer protection act. Thus discrepancies and loopholes pose a huge hurdle in protecting the consumers who participate in e-commerce. Here in India, the journey has commenced undoubtedly, but it is indeed a long way to go.


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