A fine of up to Rs 1 lakh can be imposed on e-tailers who refuse to comply with the requirement to display the country of origin on products on their respective websites.
E-tailers have reportedly been told by the government to indicate the country of origin of the product by August 1. While e-commerce companies reportedly accepted the government's move, they have asked for some more time to implement it.
In January 2018, the government amended the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011 to add a new provision mandating declaration of 'country of origin' for manufacturers, importers, packers and e-commerce entities.
Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan on Thursday said state governments have been directed to strictly enforce the provision that requires companies and e-commerce players to display the 'country of origin' on all products. The provision of declaration of 'country of origin' has been in place since January 2018 for all manufacturers, importers, packers and e-commerce players. The commerce ministry has now been asked to ensure that e-commerce players also comply with this rule strictly, he said.
"We have reiterated that we have such a provision in place. We have directed state governments to strictly enforce the provision and take action against violators," Paswan told reporters.
Whether a product is sold offline or online, it is mandatory to display 'country of origin' besides other details like maximum retail price (MRP), day of expiry, net quantity and consumer care details, Paswan said.
Consumer Affairs Secretary Leena Nandan said that e-commerce platforms are not displaying the country of origin prominently on their websites, but most companies are complying with the provision on product labelling sold in offline markets. But, e-commerce platforms are not showing it prominently on their websites. If this provision is strictly complied with, consumers can make an informed decision.
"All e-commerce sites have to display it on their website. We have written to DPIIT, which registers e-commerce sites, to comply with the provision," she said, adding that discussions are on with the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) on this issue.
The provision for declarations on e-commerce sites is made under sub-rule 10 of rule 6 of the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011, she said.
On penal action against violators, the Secretary said Section 36 of the Legal Metrology Act provides penalty of up to Rs 1 lakh and also an imprisonment for a term of one year.
She said that if a manufacturer or marketing firm fails to comply, the first offence will be fined at Rs 25,000, the second office at Rs 50,000 and Rs 1 lakh for a subsequent offence, or one year jail term for the third offence, or both. This, which was applicable to goods sold through stores, will be applicable to e-commerce firms also if they don’t display details on the website,” the secretary said.
To address the consumer concerns, the Secretary mentioned that the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) has also been set up with the Consumer Affairs Department's Additional Secretary as chief commissioner and Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) Director General as investigation officer.
The CCPA will have the powers to inquire or investigate matters relating to violations of consumer rights or unfair trade practices suo motu, or on a complaint received, or on a direction from the central government.
The ministry has finalised the rules relating to the composition and functioning of the CCPA, and these are expected to be notified on July 20, she added.
This move came on the back of border tensions with China, with a stronger push being made to boycott Chinese-made products and switch to products that are manufactured in India.
With inputs from PTI