India has become first country to have a framework to curb fake and deceptive online reviews: Nidhi Khare of CCPA

In an exclusive interview with, Nidhi Khare, Chief Commissioner, CCPA, shared that apart from the BIS guidelines for e-commerce entities, CCPA has also made an effort to reduce e-waste and has held several discussions with the stakeholders, the outcome of which has been a broad consensus on using USB C-port for all electronic devices

Akansha Srivastava
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India has become first country to have a framework to curb fake and deceptive online reviews: Nidhi Khare of CCPA

Nidhi Khare

India has become the first country to bring a new standard framework on fake and paid reviews on e-commerce sites which aim to safeguard and protect consumers, as per Nidhi Khare, Chief Commissioner, CCPA (Central Consumer Protection Authority). The framework has been built in collaboration with the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and Khare said it is also the biggest action taken by the Consumer Affairs Ministry in 2022.

Khare added, “We have seen a tremendous increase in the number of complaints regarding e-commerce platforms. It has grown from 8% to approaching 50% today, which in itself is an indicator of an exponential increase in the number of people who are exploring e-commerce entities.”

Since people are not physically present while purchasing from e-commerce entities, they naturally rely on the reviews on such platforms to decide on their purchase journey.

“Before taking any purchase decision on any e-commerce platform, people like to find out information by reading the reviews of the products or services, be it in terms of consumer durables, restaurants, hotels, travel bookings etc., that have been already experienced by fellow consumers. Now that we have shared it with all the industry stakeholders and groups, we at present have kept it for voluntary acceptance and let’s see how it works,” she said.

Khare further said that under the latest BIS guidelines, e-commerce platforms cannot post paid reviews from now on and the earlier reviews which were posted onto their platform through various tactics like fictitious impersonation won’t be allowed under the new guidelines.

Giving more clarity on the BIS guidelines rollout, Khare pointed out that the ministry is aware of the fact that the industry might become a victim of bad reviews, but it cannot allow paid reviews to be written in another country since it is equivalent to cheating.

Commenting as to whether the ministry has already started seeing compliance from the e-commerce platforms, Khare said that post the notification of the standards on November 25, the industry players do need some time to understand and adhere to the standards.

“Hardly much time has passed since the BIS guidelines came out and there are no strict timelines to adhere to these guidelines voluntarily as of now, but the ministry will be watching how the industry responds to these standards,” she stated.

Furthermore, Khare also went on to state that the ministry will also be coming out with a conformity scheme to identify and determine which of the industry players have voluntarily begun adhering to the standards.

“The BIS will roll out this conformity scheme. It is basically in the best interest of all the industry players to voluntarily follow the standards for paid reviews as the ones who won’t adhere to the basic principles might fall victim to their business rivals,” she said.

Yesterday, BIS also published new standards for organisations, like e-commerce players, travel portals and food delivery platforms, that publish consumer reviews online as part of the government's efforts to curb fake reviews.

This standard is applicable to any organisation that publishes consumer reviews online, including suppliers/sellers of products and services that collect reviews from their own customers, a third-party contracted by the suppliers/sellers or an independent third party.

According to an official statement, BIS, the national standard body of India, has published an Indian Standard -- IS 19000:2022, 'Online Consumer Reviews - Principles and Requirements for their Collection, Moderation and Publication'.

"This standard provides requirements and recommendations for the principles and methods for review administrators to apply in their collection, moderation and publication of online consumer reviews. The standard prescribes specific responsibilities for the review author and the review administrator," the statement said.

BIS standard lays down the process which demonstrates the commitment of consumer review sites that value their customers and provide reviews that can be trusted.

"It would help build confidence among consumers to purchase goods online and help them take better purchase decisions. The standard is expected to benefit all stakeholders in the e-commerce ecosystem, i.e. consumers, e-commerce platforms, sellers etc," the statement said.

Throwing light as to what is the ‘voluntary disclosure’ under the new guidelines, Khare said that the e-commerce platforms would be required to create a system under which they should be able to see for the ‘genuineness’ of the person who is writing the review and that it isn’t an AI-driven bot who is doing it.

“There has to be a system for e-commerce players to ensure that it’s not a bot who is impersonating a genuine person for publishing reviews on their platform. Once any review has been posted, no matter if it is good or bad, e-commerce platforms aren’t allowed to moderate it and keep the bad reviews at the end, leaving it for the consumer to make an informed decision,” she said.

Apart from the BIS guidelines for e-commerce entities, the CCPA has also made an effort to reduce e-waste and has held several discussions with the stakeholders, the outcome of which has been a broad consensus on using USB C-port for all electronic devices.

“The industry players have also agreed for the phase-out and have agreed that only one charger would be able to do the job for different devices, which is a great step towards bringing ease to consumers,” said Khare.

As per Khare, the much discussed ‘Right To Repair’, under which most manufacturers who have designed the products with certain brand opulence and have a ‘specific-life’ duration will also be taken care of under the ministry’s effort to reduce e-waste.

“We understand that some products have a certain life to them, but what is objecting here is that it seems to be a planned observance that the consumer is forced to buy another product because there is no way to repair the already owned product if he/she is satisfied with the product and wants to continue with the same,” she said.

She also went on to emphasise that the ministry is moving towards a framework for such products in the four sectors that they have identified as of now and will get into extensive stakeholder consultations to try and voluntarily understand what can be the ‘ideal life’ of each of the products in those segments.

“We will also ensure that even after five-ten years of usage of a product, there should be an availability of spare parts, third-party repairs, manual for self-repair, etc. for these products,” she said.

Khare also emphasised that the fundamental basis for all these moves is not that the ministry is against any innovation in the industry or is trying to obstruct growth, but it wants the industry to understand that these are perhaps a few small things that can be done not only to reduce unnecessary e-waste but also bring about a greater consumer satisfaction.

CCPA Central Consumer Protection Authority Nidhi Khare Bureau of Indian Standards BIS fake reviews paid reviews e-commerce sites