The government on Monday issued guidelines for protecting consumer interest from fake and deceptive reviews on e-commerce platforms including Amazon and Flipkart and to help customers make better purchase decisions.

E-commerce transactions across the country have witnessed a steady rise over the last few years. Reviews posted online play a significant role in making purchase decisions and consumers exceedingly rely on reviews posted on e-commerce platforms to see the opinion and experience of users who have already purchased the good or service, the consumer affairs department says.

Given that e-commerce involves a virtual shopping experience without any opportunity to physically view or examine the product, it is essential that reviews are genuine, authentic and trustworthy, the government adds.

Department of Consumer Affairs secretary Rohit Kumar Singh and Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) launched the framework titled Indian Standard (IS) 19000:2022 ‘Online Consumer Reviews — Principles and Requirements for their Collection, Moderation and Publication.

  1. The standards will initially be voluntary for compliance by all e-commerce platforms. BIS will also develop a Conformity Assessment Scheme for the standard to assess compliance.

  2. The guiding principles of the standard are integrity, accuracy, privacy, security, transparency, accessibility and responsiveness, says the government.

  3. The standard prescribes specific responsibilities for the review author and the review administrator. For review author, these include confirming acceptance of terms and conditions, providing contact information and for review administrator, these include safeguarding personal information and training of staff.

  4. Once made mandatory, if required, the violation of the standards by any entity may be considered as an unfair trade practice or violation of consumer rights and a consumer may submit such grievances to the National Consumer Helpline, Consumer Commissions or the CCPA.

  5. The standard provides for responsibilities of organisation including developing a code of practice, and necessary stipulations for terms and conditions like accessibility, criteria, and ensuring content does not contain financial information etc.

  6. The standard also provides for methods for verification of review author through email address, identification by telephone call or SMS, confirming registration by clicking on a link, using captcha system etc. to check traceability and genuineness of the review author.

  7. With respect to moderation, the standard provides for both automated and manual moderation and provides checks for analysing the review content.

  8. As regards to publication, the standard includes considerations for the review administrator at the time of publication process and after the publication process. The accuracy of the review, default display and weightage of ratings are defined in the publication process.

  9. The standard is expected to benefit all stakeholders in the e-commerce ecosystem i.e., consumers, e-commerce platforms, sellers etc. It will help usher in confidence among consumers to purchase goods online.

  10. The guidelines come months after the Department of Consumer Affairs constituted a committee to develop a framework on checking fake reviews in June.

Follow us on Facebook, X, YouTube, Instagram and WhatsApp to never miss an update from Fortune India. To buy a copy, visit Amazon.