E-commerce platform liable if vendor fails to specify country of origin: Consumer Forum The District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission of Hyderabad held an e-commerce platform liable for the vendor not displaying the "country of origin" of the product. "Inducing the consumer to purchase a particular product without specifically mentioning the origin of the country is a...
Access the exclusive LEGAL ERAStories,Editorial and Expert Opinion
E-commerce platform liable if vendor fails to specify country of origin: Consumer Forum
The District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission of Hyderabad held an e-commerce platform liable for the vendor not displaying the "country of origin" of the product.
"Inducing the consumer to purchase a particular product without specifically mentioning the origin of the country is a deceptive practice," the forum held.
As a result, Paytm (the e-commerce market place) and Uni One India Pvt Ltd (the vendor) were held liable for deficiency of service and pay compensation of Rs.15,000 to Advocate Baglekar Akash Kumar, the complainant in the case.
The Consumer Forum noted that under the Consumer Protection (E-Commerce Rules) 2020, the seller is obliged to provide information regarding country of origin of the product and the e-commerce market place must ensure that necessary information is displayed so that the customer can make an informed choice.
It was further observed that in the event if there is any violation of the E-Commerce Rules, the e-commerce market place cannot invoke the "safe harbour" immunity available for intermediaries under Section 79 of the Information Technology Act.
The facts of the case are that Usha sewing machine was purchased by the complainant – Akash Kumar in August 2020 through Paytm for Rs.13,440. When the package was delivered, the complainant found out that the machine was made in Thailand. The manufacturer did not display the country of origin in the site as mandated under Rule 6(5)(d) of the Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020. Since no information was given, the complainant assumed that the product was made in India. The complainant submitted that he would not have purchased the sewing machine had the country of origin been mentioned on the online portal.
Concealing country of origin amounts to deceptive practice: Forum's observation
The consumer forum observed that, "Inducing the consumer to purchase a particular product without specifically mentioning the origin of the country can be construed as not providing the consumers with the information which is to be provided under E-Commerce Rules 2020".
"The case falls within the ambit of relevant rules, which specifies that the seller shall provide the information to the E-Commerce entity to be displayed on its platform or website, i.e., all relevant details about the goods and services offered for sale by the seller including the country of origin which is necessary for enabling the consumer to make an informed decision at the pre-purchase stage. Not providing the mandatory information is nothing but deceptive practice which distort the consumer choice."
E-commerce entity liable for negligent conduct of the seller
There is a "paradigm shift in the liability of online traders, who until now majorly functioned in the nature of middlemen". With the E-commerce Rules coming into force, the online traders will become directly and vicariously responsible for the damage caused by the vendor to the customer. This implies that even, in cases of negligent conduct by the seller, the onus of liability shall fall upon the E-commerce entity, if any losses are incurred by the end consumers, the forum noted.
"E-commerce Rules categorically spell out the vicarious liability of the E-commerce entities including online platforms. By presenting themselves as mere intermediaries and claiming liability exemption under Section 79 of the IT Act is not applicable in the instant case as all E-commerce entities will have to mention the country of origin on all products, more so, when imported from other countries that are offered for sale.
Not mentioning the country of origin a contravention of E-commerce rules
"With increasing popularity of E-commerce websites, E-commerce business in India has ushered a significant change in shopping habits of consumers. When consumers decide to buy a product, they primarily rely on the information provided by companies in their product advertisement. However, this race to be on top has led to an increase in malpractices of false claims and concealing and misleading information. In the instant case, the act of not mentioning the country of origin on the product is nothing but the contravention of the relevant E-commerce rules".
The Commission ordered the Opposite Parties 1 and 2 to comply with the Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020 in letter and spirit and issue corrective product information that came to question in the instant complaint.
The Commission also directed the opposite parties to pay compensation of Rs. 15,000 for deficiency of service and adoption of unfair trade practice.