Guidelines to fight fake reviews on e-commerce sites unveiled; to come into effect on November 25

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Fake reviews online: Guidelines to fight fake reviews on e-commerce sites unveiled; to come into effect on November 25

Photo : BCCL

New Delhi: In a major move aimed at safeguarding shoppers from fake online reviews, all e-commerce players, travel and ticketing portals, and online food delivery platforms will have to voluntarily declare all paid or sponsored reviews about products or services offered on their portals from Friday, November 25.

The Centre on Monday issued a detailed set of guidelines which would be voluntary in nature and kick in on November 25. According to the newly framed standard on online reviews, entities mentioned above can’t publish reviews that have been “purchased” or “written by people employed for this purpose”.

Online Consumer Reviews standard

The government on Monday released the new standard on “Online Consumer Reviews” and ratings made by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) which will be applicable to every online platform that publishes consumer reviews. In a bid to fight the growing menace of fake reviews, the norms will also be applicable for independent third-party entities.

BIS will also develop a conformity assessment scheme for the standard within 15 days to assess compliance. Union consumer affairs secretary Rohit Kumar Singh said to begin with, all stakeholders would have to ensure self-regulation. He also cautioned against the failure to comply with the BIS standard which will amount to unfair trade practice.

Failure to comply

Singh noted that action can be taken against such entities as per the Consumer Protection Act, adding, “We don’t want to bulldoze the industry. We want to take the standard route. We will first see voluntary compliance and then, if the menace continues to grow, we may make it mandatory in the future. The government always has that option.”

If it is found that fake reviews are still being circulated, then complaints can be made to the various consumer fora and tribunals, he said. Regarding penalising erring entities indulging in fake reviews, the Secretary said that the decision regarding that would be taken by the consumer fora and tribunals, to whom the complaints would be referred.

He added that representatives of all big players, including technology majors like Zomato, Swiggy, Tata Sons, Reliance Retail, Google and Meta, were part of the committee that came up with the final standard and so they are confident of high compliance as fake reviews also hurt the industry.

It is worth noting here that with the notification of the standard, India will become the first country to have such a norm for Online Consumer Reviews.

Fight against online fake reviews

“The focus of the new standard is adequate disclosure. The online platforms have to specify the period when the reviews were collected so that consumers are not misled…There are websites in countries like Turkey and 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.” ToI quoted CCPA Chief commissioner Nidhi Khare as saying.

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.

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

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