A marketplace was just slammed with a fine for a defective phone sold through its platform. State governments want them to take responsibility for VAT payments, The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), India’s food regulator now wants e-commerce companies to come under its purview. On the other hand, DIPP wants e-Commerce firms to be no more than technology platforms or facilitators enabling the buyer and seller to meet.
Now how can the government say that the seller on the platform is solely responsible for product quality, promotion and customer satisfaction, and still penalize e-Commerce companies when something goes wrong on these fronts? If the seller is responsible, there’s one more issue. What happens if the seller vanishes after a transaction happens? Who does the buyer then go to for redressal? It is certainly more likely that a registered company is around to take care of grievances than a seller, who may be an individual.
The truth is that people ‘trust’ certain marketplaces more, and these marketplaces invest more in ensuring that their products and sellers and hence transactions are of a certain quality. There’s nothing wrong with this approach and it is actually consumer friendly. The FSSAI directive is in this direction. The previous action on bringing e-Commerce companies under the Consumer Protection Act was also in the same direction.