The government has issued a final warning to the online retail companies to strictly comply with laws relating to declaration of complete details about each product sold on ecommerce platforms. Having already announced that the deadline for compliance was only till December 31, 2017, those not in compliance will face prosecution after the government still gave a long rope for 4 months till April.
Now, the government has sent a communication to the various state governments to go ahead and initiate action against the defaulters. Some companies have been served notices already it is learnt.
The details related to the date of manufacture, date of expiry, details of the original manufacturer should appear on the articles in line with the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Amendment Rules, 2017. These rules are based on the main Act that governs the packaging and labelling of goods sold to the public. There are specific directions even on the size of fonts to be used while declaring information on the packages.
These are meant to protect the public at large from the unscrupulous elements in the industry and trade, who manage to push products either already expired or close to expiry or manipulate the maximum retail price (MRP) with affixing a sticker over the printed price and so on. The issue of the actual weight of each package should also be clearly mentioned on the package.
The issue faced by major ecommerce companies like Amazon and Flipkart is that they host thousands of traders on their platform who upload the information on to their site and the sale takes place and there are millions of products listed in different categories. It is practically impossible for them to inspect the product and ensure compliance of these rules. It is the traders who have to do this at their end.
The companies will now have to have their own internal agreements fixing the onus on the traders to comply. Again, most of the large traders would already be in compliance since these packaging rules have been in force for many decades and they have been complying with them in the brick and mortar or offline model. The new requirement here is to include these details on the websites alongside the product description and price etc.
The All India Online Vendors Association spokesperson has clarified that the issue relates to access provided to the traders to upload data on the online platforms of Amazon or Flipkart. Not all traders have been provided this access, partly due to the fact that they may not be regular vendors on the platform or due to some other issues. These also need to be sorted out between the company and the trader.
The penalty for non-compliance, if proven could range from fines of up to Rs 50,000 and for repeat offences, apart from the fine being as much as Rs 1 lakh, imprisonment is also provided for.