There is an overflow of fake reviews on some of the biggest tech companies in the e-commerce sector of India. A new set of rules were introduced today by the country’s regulators in an attempt to curb this practice. A framework has been released by the Indian government aimed at reducing false and misleading reviews on e-commerce platforms and portals offering services such as tour and travel, food delivery, and consumer durables. If fake reviews continue to rise, the plan is to begin with, voluntary moderation, then proceed to mandatory moderation if the problem cannot be resolved. In over a year, New Delhi has proposed more rigid rules to regulate e-commerce to prevent false reviews and address numerous complaints of “widespread cheating” within the industry.
The government announced guidelines on Monday that will come into effect on November 25 to limit fake reviews on online review platforms. With great interest, I declare that the Department of Consumer Affairs, under the direction of the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), has created a standard titled “IS 19000:2022.
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According to the guidelines, platforms will be required to set up dedicated review administrators tasked with moderating reviews manually or using automated tools to filter out biased reviews and reduce the likelihood of fraudulent checks. There is also a requirement within the framework that reviews should include the date of publication and the star rating.
Consumers should not have the right to edit their reviews and use foul language. It was also recommended that platform owners be able to prevent authors who have posted fraudulent reviews from continuing to post them in the future.
Those authoring reviews online will be required to verify their identity by the platforms before they are allowed to submit them. There are several methods that platforms can use to verify the identity of consumers, including email addresses, phone numbers, IP addresses, or even by using a Captcha system to verify their identity.
It should be noted that the newly published guidelines apply to online platforms and third parties interacting with the web to conduct reviews.
There is one thing, however, that all the countries where e-commerce has become more prevalent and famous are all experiencing a problem with [fake online reviews]. Depending on the situation, some people make rules while others make legal provisions. The first country, I think, is us, and I qualify that statement with the knowledge that we are working on a standard, which we will take the standard route, and the traditional way will be the one we decide to take. We do not wish to bulldoze the industry… We will first attempt to achieve voluntary compliance, and if the problem persists, we may eventually decide to make it mandatory. As Rohit Kumar Singh, the Consumer Affairs Secretary in New Delhi, said during a press conference, “Depending on how the problem progresses, we may consider making it mandatory.”
The director advised that the department wanted all e-commerce entities to adopt the framework in the shortest amount of time possible so that they could get certified by BIS after adhering to the given standard. Currently, however, the government has yet to make it mandatory for platforms to adhere to the guidelines, as they are not required to do this by law.
There are provisions in the Consumer Protection Act that deal with unfair trading practices, and a consumer court can take action as well if they are not doing it and if they are engaging in a practice that can be considered unfair trading practice, then they can be penalized under the Consumer Protection Act.
In June, the Department of Consumer Affairs created a committee to develop consumer guidelines based on the recommendations presented to the committee in June. According to the department, the committee included various stakeholders, such as e-commerce companies, industry associations, consumer organizations, and law chairs, who helped to formulate the recommendations.
As were other platforms, Amazon and Flipkart could not immediately comment on the move.
We believe feedback mechanisms such as reviews can be seen as an essential aspect of consumer interest. The government is taking steps to create necessary standards, and we are obliged to be a part of the constituted committee to facilitate this process,” Jaskiran Bedi, lead within the public policy department at Zomato, said in a statement sent to TechCrunch.
There was an intention to have a self-regulatory mechanism to deal with fake reviews made by Google, Meta, Swiggy, Zomato, Meesho, Tata Sons, Flipkart, Reliance Retail, Zepto, Blinkit, Google, Meta, Swiggy, Zomato, and Meesho, Singh said.
Several global bodies, such as the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in the U.K., and the Federal Trade Commission in the U.S., are taking steps to eliminate misleading reviews on social media platforms. While the prevalence of fake reviews has increased across the board, several e-commerce sites and platforms have continued to have fake reviews.
In response to last year’s fake reviews, Amazon deflected its responsibility and announced that in 2020, it will block over 200 million such suspected reviews before they show up for consumers to see. It is also known that last year, the U.K.’s competition watchdog probed Amazon and Google over false reviews on their platforms. A recent update to Meta’s Community Feedback Policy was announced in June to restrict irrelevant reviews on Facebook in the future.