Consumer Complaints against E-commerce Platforms

Last updated on Jun 7, 2022

Consumers can also complain against unfair trade practices involving digital and other products bought through e-commerce platforms and retailers. Any person who owns, operates or manages any digital or electronic platform offering goods or services for sale, is an e-commerce entity. An e-commerce entity is separately governed by e-commerce rules(( Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020.)) in India.

These rules are only applicable to professional and commercial businesses and not for an individual acting in their personal capacity(( Proviso to Rule 2, Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020)). For instance, a consumer can complain against Amazon as it is an e-commerce entity regularly engaged in the activity of sale of goods through its e-commerce website. However, if there are issues with a product on a platform like Amazon, Amazon would be held liable for product liability actions, not the product manufacturer.

Interestingly, the product liability for an e-commerce entity extends beyond India. This means that these platforms are equally liable under the consumer protection law, in addition to their own country’s domestic laws(( Rule 2(2), Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020.)). For instance, a foreign e-commerce entity such as Liyid delivers its products in India; in case of any harm caused due to defective products, a product liability action can be brought against Liyid in India and in the foreign country.

Liabilities of e-commerce platforms

E-commerce platforms are held liable for the following:

  • Price manipulations on their sites,(( Rule 4(11)(a), Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020.))
  • Negligence in services provided and discrimination against customers(( Rule 4(11)(b), Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020.)).
  • Misleading advertisements, unfair trade practices(( Rule 4(3), Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020)) and inaccurate descriptions/information of products.
  • Refusing to refund or return a defective product(( Rule 7(4), Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020)).
  • Failure to provide warnings or instructions with respect to the goods or services availed by a customer(( Section 85(c), Consumer Protection Act, 2019)).
  • False descriptions, and violations about the authenticity and images of the goods or services advertised for sale on their platform(( Rule 5(2), Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020)).

However, they will not be liable if the dangers of the product are common knowledge. For example, if a consumer misuses or alters a dangerous product like flamethrowers then the e-commerce entity cannot be held liable for this(( Section 87(1), Consumer Protection Act, 2019)).

Complaining to E-Commerce Platforms

E-commerce platforms must establish a ‘Grievance Redressal Mechanism’ and should appoint a ‘Grievance Officer’ for Indian customers to get their concerns addressed(( Rule 4(4), Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020)). The details about the Grievance Redressal Mechanism must be displayed on the e-commerce platform. The Grievance officer must acknowledge the complaint within 48 hours and address the concern within a period of one month(( Rule 4(5), Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020)).


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