Indian government issues guidelines to curb fake online reviews and ratings

On Monday, India’s central government issued guidelines against fake consumer reviews and unverified ratings on e-commerce websites, like Zomato, Swiggy, Google, Meta’s Facebook and Instagram, Amazon, Flipkart and so on, to make the platforms more reliable and authentic and not misleading for the consumers. The new rules will reportedly come into effect next week on November 26. 

The initiative to protect consumers’ interests was taken by the country’s Department of Consumer Affairs (DoCA) and will be enforced by the standards body, Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) under the new standard titled, Indian Standard 19000:2022 ‘Online Consumer Reviews – Principles and Requirements for their Collection, Moderation and Publication’. The rule was also reportedly created by the BIS. 

According to India’s Secretary of the Department of Consumer Affairs, Rohit Kumar Singh, “Violation of the standards by the companies will 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 Fora or the CCPA.” He added that the standards will be applicable to every online platform which publishes consumer reviews. 

The guidelines mandate that the platforms set up review administrators to moderate reviews which could be done via a code of practice along with stipulations for terms and conditions or to manually filter out the biases. Meanwhile, the reviews should also include the publishing date and have a star rating, said the framework. 

The standards will initially be voluntary for compliance by all e-commerce platforms which also prescribes specific responsibility for the author of the review as well as the review administrator. Furthermore, some of the methods of verification of the author also include verifying their email address and their identification via a phone call or SMS. 

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This comes after the DoCA in June, earlier this year had set up a committee of representatives from e-commerce platforms, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) as well as the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and other stakeholders.

These standards are expected to benefit all stakeholders in the e-commerce ecosystem which includes consumers, e-commerce platforms, sellers, and so on, said Singh. He added, “It will help usher in confidence among consumers to purchase goods online and help them take better purchase decisions.”

(With inputs from agencies) 



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