Around 350 cases have been lodged against e-commerce firms for violating various guidelines mandated in the Legal Metrology Act of 2009. Violations of required disclosures such as country of origin and expiry dates. The information corresponds to the time period between October 16, 2020, and February 3, 2022.
In a written response to a question, Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution Ashwini Kumar Choubey said this. The Minister further said that 90 companies have been fined over the violations thus far. In addition, a penalty of Rs 49.95 lakh has been slapped on the erring entities.
Adding further he said, “As against violations of mandatory declarations under the Legal Metrology Act 2009 and the rules made thereunder like country of origin, expiry date, etc, 305 total cases have been booked for various violations from October 16, 2020, and February 3, 2022.”
As many as 281 of the 305 complaints involve grievances concerning e-commerce websites failing to specify Country of Origin tags. The minister also stated that 15 notices had been issued to e-commerce companies and merchants for selling non-standard pressure cookers online. Following that, 7 cases were lodged, each for overcharging and failing to disclose the manufacturer’s address on the product label.
Giving a breakdown of the complaints lodged by state governments, the Minister added that 4,716 cases were recorded in 2019, followed by 3,713 cases in 2020, and 2,996 cases were reported against e-commerce firms last year. The industry department had previously instructed e-commerce operators to mention ‘country of origin’ tags to all existing products on their marketplaces by September 2020. The action was made in the context of growing tensions and a ballooning trade imbalance with China. The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) issued the notices in order to “protect the rights of consumers as a class.”
The e-commerce companies were also charged with other violations, such as violating the Domestic Pressure Cooker (Quality Control) Order, 2020. This led to 15 e-commerce portals receiving notices for offering non-standardized pressure cookers online. The Minister also briefed the Member of Parliament that these directions were generally stated in the form of Quality Control Orders (QCOs) and that the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) had issued three notices for violations of the QCO for Pressure Cookers and two notices for violations of the Helmet Order.
Certain products are required to be certified by the BIS. It ensures uniform compliance with standards in order to protect end-users from substandard products. Only BIS-certified items are allowed to be manufactured and marketed in the country under the QCO regime. While the QCO for household pressure cookers took effect on February 1, last year, the QCO for helmets took effect on June 1, 2021.
These practices should not be tolerated by the government, and there is a need to strengthen the enforcement of local laws. In the lack of these, online platforms may continue to offer substandard products, many of which may cause harm to the end-user.