Amazon, Flipkart, Zomato to disclose all paid reviews, Government announces new norms
E-commerce players like Amazon and Flipkart will be required to voluntarily disclose all compensated consumer ratings of goods and services supplied on their platforms with the government enacting new regulations to combat fake reviews and aid consumers in making informed decisions. However, the government has barred the publication of reviews that “have been purchased and/or written by individuals employed for that purpose by the supplier or third party concerned”.
The BIS standards, which were created following extensive stakeholder engagements and will go into effect on November 25 as voluntary requirements, may eventually become required if the threat of fraudulent online platform reviews persists.
Consumer Affairs Secretary Rohit Kumar Singh on Monday said “the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has formulated a new standard ‘IS 19000:2022’ for Online Consumer Reviews — Principles and Requirements for their Collection, Moderation and Publication.”
In order to determine whether an organization is adhering to these requirements, Singh stated that the BIS will release a certification process within the next 15 days. Participants in e-commerce can apply to the BSI for certification of this standard.
“We don’t want to bulldoze the industry. We want to take the standard route. We will first see the voluntary compliance and then, if the menace continues to grow, we will, maybe, make it mandatory in the future,” he said.
Singh said that online reviews are important when making selections about what to buy on e-commerce platforms and listed the three main sectors where reviews, whether in text, video, or audio form, are important: travel and tourism, restaurants and eateries, and consumer durables.
Both solicited and unsolicited reviews are recognized by the BIS. In any organization, the individual in charge of managing the review will be referred to as the review administrator.
Consumer reviews of goods or services that are requested by the vendor or review administrator are referred to as solicited reviews.
Reviews, according to the secretary, should be truthful, precise, and not deceptive. Without their consent, reviewers’ identities should not be made public, and organizations should make sure that information is presented in a transparent manner. He said that the reviews should be collected objectively.
“If a review is purchased or you are rewarding the person for writing the review, then that has to be clearly marked as a purchased review,” Singh said.
The BIS has also listed out the steps for verification of a review author. “The verification of the review author is important… There are websites in countries like Turkey, Moldova where there is a business of fake reviews. So these companies pay money and get reviews. If this is happening, that cannot take place,” Singh said.
Such purchased reviews are referred to as “fraud reviews” by Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) Chief Commissioner Nidhi Khare. Singh claims that the Consumer Protection Act has criminal penalties for unfair business activities.
Consumers largely rely on reviews placed on platforms to see the opinions and experiences of people who have already purchased the goods or services because e-commerce only allows for a virtual shopping experience without the chance to physically inspect or check the thing.
Fake reviews and star ratings, however, deceive customers into purchasing goods and services online. According to the secretary, organizations including Zomato, Swiggy, Reliance Retail, Tata Sons, Amazon, Flipkart, Google, Meta, Mesho, Blinkit, and Zepto participated in the consultation process and provided assurances of adherence to these criteria.
While developing the standards, industry organizations like CII, FICCI, Assocham, Nasscom, ASCI, NRAI, and CAIT were also contacted.