Consumer complaints related to the e-commerce sector have recorded a spike in the last few years. The total number of complaints witnessed a significant rise of over 300 per cent during the last five years.
As per the latest data issued by the Department of Consumer Affairs, the total number of complaints received on the National Consumer Helpline during 2017-18 was 59,402, which increased to 1,57,574 in 2020-21 and 1,83,851 in 2021-22.
A close look at the data disclosed that Uttar Pradesh topped the list of states having a maximum of 25,484 complaints in the e-commerce sector, followed by Maharashtra at 18,799 and Rajasthan at 15,620 in 2021-22.
An analysis of the data on e-commerce related complaints showed that nearly 50 per cent of them came from only five states — Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Delhi, Rajasthan and Bihar.
The e-commerce industry has evolved and attained a foothold in the Indian market and picked up significant momentum during the past few years. The rapid proliferation of the digital economy has led to the growth of the e-commerce industry at a rapid pace which was further accelerated by compulsions on account of the Covid-19 pandemic.
As per an Indian Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF) report published in November 2021, the Indian e-commerce market is expected to grow from $46.2 billion in 2020 to $111.40 billion by 2025 and is further projected to attain the value of $200 billion by 2026.
For consumers, such online platforms offer products at massive discounts coupled with facilities such as door-step delivery and return services, which thereby result in high consumer satisfaction. However, the growth is not without problems related to the consumers.
To deal with consumer related issues, the Consumer Protection (E-commerce) Rules, 2020, which have been notified under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, are aimed at protecting consumers from unfair trade practices.
They require all e-commerce entities to establish a consumer grievance redressal mechanism, appoint a grievance officer for consumer grievance redressal and display the name, contact details, and designation of such officials on their platform.
The grievance officer is required to acknowledge the receipt of any consumer complaint within 48 hours and redress the complaint within one month from the date of receipt of the same.
Apart from this, the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules 2011 under the Legal Metrology Act, 2009 provides that an e-commerce entity shall ensure that the name and address of the manufacturer or packer or importer, maximum retail price (MRP), country of origin, common or generic name of the commodity, net quantity, month and year of manufacture, customer care details etc. shall be displayed on the digital and electronic network used for e-commerce transactions.
This is to ensure that the consumer is taking an informed and conscious decision based on the declaration of the product on the e-commerce platform.
Grievances received on National Consumer Helpline related to the e-commerce sector: