India's central government has plans to develop a framework to curb fake reviews on e-commerce platforms like Flipkart, Amazon, and Reliance Retail.
The Ministry of Consumer Affairs made this announcement on Saturday, 28 May, a day after it held a virtual meeting with various stakeholders to gauge the magnitude of the problem and a possible roadmap.
The Department of Consumer Affairs (DoCA) will study how different e-commerce websites currently check fake reviews as well as "best practices available globally" to develop these frameworks.
The government will likely approach this issue by making reviewers more traceable, ensuring that reviews can be verified, and making platforms liable for fake reviews, Rohit Kumar Singh, Secretary DoCA, suggested.
“Also e-commerce players must disclose as to how they choose the most relevant reviews for display in a fair and transparent manner,” Singh said.
No other details regarding the plan were shared.
55 Percent of Websites Violate EU Laws
Thousands of fake reviewers can be accessed through messaging groups which let sellers buy inauthentic reviews for cash or freebies. To beat the cutthroat competition online, one can also purchase negative reviews for competitors.
It has become a veritable industry.
While India specific estimations for fake reviews aren't available, the DoCA shared a European Commission press release with the invitees before the meeting.
Dated 20 January, the release highlighted the results of an EU-wide screening on online consumer reviews across 223 major websites.
The results underlined that at least 55 percent of the websites violate the unfair commercial Practices Directive of the EU which requires truthful information to be presented to consumers to make an informed choice.
In 144 out of the 223 websites checked, the authorities could not confirm that traders were doing enough to ensure that reviews were authentic (posted by consumers who had actually used the product or service).
In the meeting, the DoCA, along with India's advertising watchdog Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), consulted with consumer forums, law universities, lawyers, FICCI, CII and consumer rights activists.
The biggest players in the space, including Flipkart, Amazon, Tata, and Reliance were also invited, though it is unclear whether they participated.
"All stakeholders agreed that the issue deserves to be monitored closely and appropriate framework governing the fake reviews may be developed to address the issue for protection of consumer interest," the release said.
It added that stakeholders from e-commerce companies claimed that they already have frameworks in place by which they monitor fake reviews and "would be pleased" to take part in developing a legal framework.