A few months back, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India conducted a survey among consumers at LocalCircles, an online citizen engagement platform, regarding the quality of products sold online.
Whooping 98% of 7000 people surveyed informed that products bought online are those whose expiry dates are very near, or are already expired.
This is, of course, wrong on so many counts.
Yatish Rajawat, chief strategy officer at LocalCircles, asked a very logical question: “How do marketplaces manage to sell expensive and imported olive oil at a discount? These are all products bought by a dealer close to the expiry date and who is trying to sell it through this channel,”
Understanding the problems, Govt. has now decided to mandate every e-commerce portal to display the expiry date, MRP and other vital information, right on the portal itself. This can be hailed as a major victory for consumer’s rights, and a landmark decision, which will improve the quality of products sold online.
What Has Changed Now For Ecommerce Portals?
In a notification dated June 23rd, The Ministry of Consumer Affairs has amended several provisions of Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011, which basically brings all e-commerce portals under their jurisdiction.
And this means eCommerce portals can no longer ignore or avoid the rules which bind all offline retail products.
Display of expiry date, along with MRP of every product is now compulsory for eCommerce portals to display, right on the portal itself.
The notification said, “An eCommerce entity shall ensure that the mandatory declarations as specified, except the month and year in which the commodity is manufactured or packed, shall be displayed on the digital and electronic network used for eCommerce transactions,” states the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Amendment Rules, 2017.”
The rules would be made effective January 1st, 2018.
What About Online Marketplaces?
The rules are pretty self-explanatory for portals which stock items, such as BigBasket and Grofers.
However, what about online marketplaces, such as Amazon, Flipkart, which doesn’t stock any product of their own, but depend on online vendors to sell products?
In such cases, the online vendors and manufacturers would be accountable for this rule. However, the online marketplaces need to ensure that this rule is followed by all online vendors and sellers.
The notification said, “responsibility of the correctness of declarations lies with the manufacturer or seller or dealer or importer.”
E-commerce Industry Reacts Positively
In general, almost every eCommerce portal has shown their support to this new rules, which will ensure that better quality products reach the consumers.
Amazon India said, “We work with our sellers to ensure that our customers receive safe food products well within their indicated shelf lives,”, adding, “We train employees to check best-before dates while storing and packing food products at our fulfilment centres.”
Grofers has already planned to showcase expiry dates for their products, albeit in batches.
Grofers cofounder Albinder Dhindsa said, “Typically, a product will ship to a customer only if it is within a reasonable window of usage. In case a customer complains about the expiry date within 48 hours of delivery, we offer a replacement. Expiry related complaints are fewer than two in 1,000 (products) for us.”