Ecommerce companies will now have to start declaring the expiry dates and maximum retail price (MRP) of packaged consumer products.
According to a report by the Economic Times, in a notification dated June 23, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs has amended the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011, in order to bring ecommerce companies and marketplaces under its purview.
This is being done to ensure consumers are not sold old goods.
Under these rules, ecommerce companies will also have to display the country of origin the product page on its website.
The rules will become effective from January 1, 2018.
Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Amendment Rules, 2017 states, “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.”
Companies such as on-demand grocery platforms BigBasket, Grofers, which stock inventory will be subject to the new rules.
In the case of online marketplaces that do not own inventory like Flipkart and Amazon India, ET reports that that the new rules indicate that the "responsibility of the correctness of declarations lie with the manufacturer or seller or dealer or importer."
This means that the onus of ensuring due diligence before dispatching the products will lie with the online marketplaces.
An Amazon India spokesperson told ET that it will work will sellers to ensure customers receive safe food products well within their indicated shelf lives. "We train employees to check best-before dates while storing and packing food products at our fulfilment centres," it said.
Grofers says that typically a product will be shipped to a customer only if it’s within a reasonable window of usage. However, it will shortly start displaying expiry dates for batches of products.
"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," Grofers cofounder Albinder Dhindsa told ET.
This comes after several people pointed out to Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) during discussions on citizen engagement platform LocalCircles that several products being sold online are often close to their expiry or best-before dates.
ET reports that under the new guidelines, food products will be covered under specifications set by the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.