July 18: ADVOCACY
Top e-portals blatantly violate labelling rules, reveals CERC survey
On the occasion of World Consumer Rights Day, CERC urges Govt. to ensure compliance
Digital marketplaces or e-commerce has transformed the way in which many of us shop. But there are two key challenges to overcome to make e-commerce work for consumers – access and trust. The theme for World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) 2018 that fell on 15 March, fixed by Consumers International (CI), was â€˜Making Digital Marketplaces Fairerâ€™.
To our dismay, a recent online survey by Consumer Education and Research Centre (CERC), Ahmedabad has revealed how mandatory labelling requirements and peoplesâ€™ trust are being violated by leading e-commerce portals.
The Ministry of Consumer Affairs (MoCA) made amendmentsÂ to the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011. The new regulations came into force from January 1, 2018 and made it mandatory for e-commerce firms to display the maximum retail price (MRP) of goods along with other mandatory label information on their websites.The new rules regulate the pricing of pre-packaged commodities along with certain labelling requirements to safeguard the interests of consumers. They prohibit dual MRPs.The main aim is to protect consumers from fakes and inflated prices.
The CERC survey, which was conducted across product categories of food, toys, household items and shoes on popular e-commerce portals like Amazon, Snapdeal, Flipkart and Bigbasket, revealed serious gaps.
- MRP not shown on labels: None of the portals surveyed carried images of any product which displayed the product label showing MRP. Where an image/picture of the label was available on the portal websites, it showed the printed word â€˜MRPâ€™ with a blank space after it. Unless product label image showing MRP is displayed on the portal, the consumer cannot be sure that the MRP displayed by the portal is correct. Portals can show incorrect MRPs without the customer finding out till later.
- MRP variation huge from portal to portal: It was seen in some instances that the MRP for the same product was different on different portals. To illustrate,Â Figaro Olive Oil Tin 500 gm showed MRP of Rs. 495 on Amazon and MRP of Rs. 700 on Snapdeal. How can the same pre-packaged product have different MRPs on different portals?
- Gaps regarding food products: None of the portals surveyed carry images of actual product label showing date of manufacture and use before/best before/expiry dates.This is a violation of mandatory labelling requirements of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).The portal pages also did not carry these essential details for food products. The consumer has no way of knowing while shopping if the food product they buy has adequate usable life.
Some other observations that the survey made were:
- On Bigbasket, in some instances (e.g. BB Royal Green Tea Tulsi 25 pieces) it was seen that Market Price-MP is given instead of MRP. The explanation for MP is given as – â€œMarket Price is the going rate in the market. As there are no standardized rates we conduct market surveys to determine the priceâ€. This gives the seller the scope to charge any price without justification.
- Amazon and Snapdeal show MRP accompanied by â€˜inclusive of taxesâ€™ notation on their product page for the categories food, toys and household items.
- Flipkart shows only the price in these categories with a symbol (i) near it. The customer can see the MRP and other price details only when the curser is taken on the symbol.
- For shoes, Amazon gives only the price, no mention of MRP. Flipkart gives the MRP in (i) and Snapdeal gives the MRP in most cases.
- On the Bigbasket portal, in food and household items, MRP is mentioned in some products only. However, the phrase – inclusive of taxes – is not mentioned anywhere.
In the light of these findings and the complaints of charging wrong/higher price than the MRP received on portals like Local Circles, we sent a representation to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs (MoCA) on the occasion of WCRD. We urged MoCA to monitor compliance of labelling regulations by all e-commerce portals and put in place a stringent enforcement mechanism.
We emphasized that it should be made mandatory for the portals to display the product image bearing the MRP label with the MRP amount given clearly.The portal mentioning only the word MRP does not serve the purpose of ensuring the sale of products at fair and correct prices.