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Stakeholder Consultation Held by Department of Consumer Affairs to Tackle Online Fake Reviews

New Delhi: The Department of Consumer Affairs conducted a stakeholder consultation today to address the growing concern of protecting consumer interests from online fake reviews. Chaired by Nidhi Khare, Secretary of the Department of Consumer Affairs, the meeting aimed to devise strategies to safeguard consumers from misleading information prevalent in the online marketplace.

The surge in consumer grievances related to e-commerce platforms, as registered on the National Consumer Helpline (NCH), has been alarming. From 95,270 complaints in 2018, constituting 22% of the total grievances, the number has risen to 4,44,034 in 2023, representing a significant 43% of the total grievances.

In the absence of physical inspection of products, consumers heavily rely on online reviews to make informed decisions. However, the proliferation of fake reviews undermines the trustworthiness of e-commerce platforms, potentially leading to erroneous purchase decisions.

In November 2022, the Department introduced the Indian Standard (IS) 19000:2022 ‘Online Consumer Reviews — Principles and Requirements for their Collection, Moderation, and Publication’. This standard, centered on integrity, accuracy, privacy, and transparency, lays down specific responsibilities for both review authors and administrators.

To further address the issue, a draft Quality Control Order (QCO) has been proposed, outlining essential requirements and prohibitions. Among these, organizations are mandated to ensure genuine reviews are published, refrain from biased objectives, and not manipulate or suppress negative feedback.

During the consultation, stakeholders, including major online platforms, industry bodies, consumer associations, and legal experts, welcomed the initiative to combat fake reviews. There was unanimous agreement on the importance of protecting consumer interests and the necessity of stringent measures to regulate online reviews.

The Department emphasized the exponential growth of online shopping and the imperative need to address rising consumer grievances in the e-commerce sector. The proposed Draft Quality Control Order will be subject to public consultation, inviting feedback within a specified timeframe.

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