Recently, the Department of Consumer Affairs along with the Department and Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), announced a framework titled Indian Standard (IS) 19000:2022 ‘Online Consumer Reviews — Principles and Requirements for their Collection, Moderation and Publication’ to curb fake reviews on e-commerce platforms so as to preserve and safeguard the interests of the customers.

The norms which came into force on November 25, 2022, are applicable to all online platforms which publish or put out consumer reviews. The various industry players and stakeholders including the e-commerce companies, industry associations, consumer organizations and law chairs took part in the debate and deliberation process of establishing of the standard on false and deceiving reviews.

The key features of the framework are as follows:

  • Prescribing specific responsibilities for a review author such as confirming acceptance of the terms and conditions and providing contact information.
  • Prescribing specific responsibilities for a review administrator such as safeguarding personal information and training the staff.
  • Developing a code of practice and necessary stipulations for terms and conditions like accessibility, criteria and verifying that the content does not contain any financial information, etc.
  • Providing techniques for authentication of review author through email address, identification by telephone call or SMS, affirming registration by clicking on a link, availing captcha system, etc. to identify and check the credibility of the review author.
  • Providing automated and manual moderation and checks for examining the review content.
  • The correctness of the review, default display and weightage of the ratings are defined in the publication process.

It is pertinent to note that initially compliance with the standard is voluntary but could become mandatory if the fake reviews continue. Once mandatory, the violation of standards by an organization may be considered an unfair trade practice and a consumer may submit such grievances to the National Consumer Helpline, Consumer Commissions or the Central Consumer Protection Authority.

There is no doubt that over the past few years, there has been steady growth in the e-commerce industry. Online reviews play a pivotal role in moulding purchasing decisions of consumers. It is thus imperative that such reviews are honest and reliable and free from any bias.

Thus, this positive step by the Union government is designed to enhance transparency for the consumers as well as the brands and to promote information accurately. This move would go a long way in protecting gullible consumers from fake and deceptive reviews and help them in making informed decisions.