India Issues Guidelines to Combat Fake Online Reviews

India Issues Guidelines to Combat Fake Online Reviews
Photo: 23.11.2022 367

On Monday, the Indian government unveiled a framework of standards to curb fake reviews on e-commerce websites. The framework, “Indian Standard (IS) 19000:2022”, has been prepared by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS)  and will come into effect from November 25.

The Indian government has released a framework to curb fake and misleading reviews on e-commerce platforms. The plan is first to start with voluntary moderation, and then progress to mandatory requirements if the growth of fake reviews continues.

As Consumer Affairs Secretary Rohit Kumar Singh noted, reviews are especially important in three e-comm sectors — tour and travel; restaurant and eateries; and consumer durables.

Under the guidelines, platforms will be required to set up review administrators to moderate reviews using automated tools or manually to filter out biases and restrict fraudulent reviews. 

The reviews should also include the publishing date and star rating, the guidelines said.

Consumers should not be allowed to edit their reviews and use foul language. Platforms should also restrict authors giving fraudulent reviews from publishing such reviews in the future.

Authors submitting reviews online will be required to verify their identity by platforms. Platforms will verify consumers’ identity from their email addresses, phone numbers, IP addresses or by using a Captcha system, the guidelines stated.

In addition to online platforms, the newly released guidelines will apply to third parties conducting reviews on the web.

Once made mandatory, a consumer may submit grievances to the National Consumer Helpline, Consumer Commissions, or the CCPA, against misleading reviews.

Rohit Kumar Singh also informed that the industry players like Tata Sons, Amazon, Flipkart, Reliance Retail, Google, Meta (banned and designated as extremist in Russia), Swiggy and Zomato participated in the consultation process of finalization of the standards on fake reviews. Besides, industry bodies like CII, FICCI and NASSCOM were also part of the consultation process, he said.

"The standard is expected to benefit all stakeholders in the e-commerce ecosystem i.e., consumers, e-commerce platforms, sellers etc. It will help usher in confidence among consumers to purchase goods online and help them take better purchase decisions," 

the government official stated.

As TechCrunch notes, global bodies — including the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)  in the U.S. — are working toward limiting misleading reviews online. Nonetheless, fake reviews have continued to emerge on platforms such as e-commerce websites worldwide.

Last year, Amazon deflected its responsibility on fake reviews but admits it blocked more than 200 million such suspected reviews in 2020 before they appeared to consumers. The U.K.’s competition watchdog also last year probed Amazon and Google over false reviews on their platforms. In June, Meta updated its Community Feedback Policy to restrict irrelevant reviews on Facebook.

Sources:  The Indian Express, India Today, TechCrunch

digital markets  India 

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