Soon, new law to protect online shoppers

Ankit Vora bought a pair of shoes from for Rs. 1685 at a huge discount. When the goods arrived he was horrified to note that it looked like a used pair which had been repaired. He asked the company for a refund but received no response. He then indicated that he was approaching CERS. The company acted promptly giving him double the amount of refund as a token of apology!

This is just one of the many complaints that CERC has received recently related to online shopping. Sometimes, consumers don’t receive the product or it is defective. On asking for a refund or replacement they receive no response from the shopping portal. Jurisdictional limitations make it difficult for the consumer to file a complaint.

Two recent cases demonstrate the shocks in store for online shoppers. One Flipkart customer who ordered a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Neo was shocked to receive a rock! Another Snapdeal customer, who also ordered a Samsung phone, opened the package to find a bar of soap.

Now, there is good news for consumers. The Consumer Protection Act, 1986, is being overhauled in the winter session of Parliament. E-commerce through all electronic modes, including through e-tailers such as Flipkart, Amazon, Snapdeal, makemytrip and bookmyshow, and even direct selling, will come under the consumer protection law. If teleshoppers and e-tailers fail to take back defective items and return the amount paid by a customer within a month even after a request is made, action can be initiated against such players.

Moreover, it is likely that consumers will be allowed to sue online retailers from where they reside, saving time and money. The change will allow ‘territory free’ legal action against goods or service providers. Under the current rules, a consumer can initiate legal action against a seller only in the place where the transaction takes place which is impractical in an e-commerce environment.

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