E-commerce is one of the fastest-growing segments in the Indian economy. E-commerce is the trading of products and services through the medium of the internet. There has been a huge surge in investment since last year and which is expected to increase more in the future. India is also witnessing the shift of customer preference from offline shopping to online shopping. However, it has violated the right to privacy of the customers to some extent. This article throws light on how emerging e-commerce is treating the privacy of consumers.

Introduction

In 21stcentury, trends have changed and the scope of the physical mode of shopping is reducing gradually. Everything that we need is available on digital e-commerce platforms. E-commerce is available on computers, laptops, mobile phones, and anywhere the internet is available such as the magic of e-commerce. It has revolutionized the Indian market. These platforms through an online internet connection save time and effort.

Online shopping is a form of e-commerce that permits a consumer to directly purchase goods by using the internet. Other names of e-commerce include e-shop, e-store, internet shop. All of these words connote a single meaning i.e. digital shopping.

The Internet has developed a new distributive channel for many products. Online shopping has become the primary reason to use the internet, combined with searching for products and finding information about them. This has led to the offline stores developing their shopping websites to match with the current trends in shopping. Therefore, e-commerce has become highly competitive. The demand for offline and online customers also varies to some extent. This can be illustrated through the fact that online customers look for big discounts when they shop online, but do not have the same expectations while shopping physically from a store.

The Internet has changed consumer patterns and has rapidly developed into a global perspective. Many companies started using online shopping to reduce market costs that will lead to reducing the price of their products to stay updated in very highly competitive markets.

Who is a consumer?

E-Commerce

Under the Consumer Protection Act, a consumer is defined as a person who buys any goods or hires or avails of any service for consideration but does not include a person who obtains goods for resale or goods or services for any commercial purpose. The act seeks to widen the scope of this definition. Thus, a consumer will now mean any person who buys any goods and hires any services which shall include both an offline transaction through electronic means, teleshopping direct selling, or multi-level marketing.

Consumer Protection Act, 2019

The new consumer protection act 2019 came in to force on 20thJuly 2020. It empowers consumers and helps them in protecting their rights through its various notified rules and provisions. The central consumer protection authority has been established, whose primary objective will be to promote protect and enforce the rights of consumers.

Consumer Behavior Towards Online Shopping

The change in consumer trends has resulted in the increased preference and inclination towards online shopping as it is more convenient and time-saving. This mode of shopping has especially gained momentum during the time of Covid-19, when people are stuck inside homes and did not have access to physical shops for a long time due to lockdowns imposed by the government. Looking at the statistics, 1.8 billion people shop daily through online and 64 percent of people prefer to shop online.

It has gained preference because it enables the customer to shop within the comfort of their homes, encourages digital payment which is a safer mode of transaction due to hygiene standards of Covid-19, compares price, quality, and customer service, and further provides ease and convenience to the customers.

Trends in e-consumer protection in India

E-Commerce

Ecommerce has become a bustling business in India today it is at the cutting edges in all areas of business today. In 2014 the internet and mobile association of India had come up with a report known as IAMAI which had estimated that nearly 1 million large and small retailers make use of online marketplaces to reach out to their customers. These online retailers reprint a very wide range of categories including electronics, books, apparel, accessories, and many more.

The need to ensure the basic right to consumer welfare has long been recognized by legislation in India. In line with the United Nations guidelines on consumer protection, UNGCP India enacted the Consumer Protection Act, 2019.

Under the new Act, e-commerce entities are required to provide information to consumers, relating to return, refund, exchange warranty and guarantee, delivery and shipment, modes of payment, charge-back options, and country of origin.

With an increase in internet penetration and companies pushing for the online sale of their products through discount sales and festival sales, the number of complaints has also increased. In recent times, Indian consumer courts have seen an increase in consumer cases in the context of e-commerce, mostly on the grounds of deficiency in services and unfair trade practices. Taking into Online shopping portals continue to provide unfair and unreasonable terms in their User Agreement, especially concerning jurisdiction. Such clauses are irrelevant and arbitrary because consumers in online shops are spread over very large geographical areas.

What is Consumer Privacy?

E-Commerce

We all know that a computer system cannot be one hundred percent secure, there is always a risk involved in using the internet for buying goods. Internet shopping has potential risks for customers such as payment safety and after service. Now internet payment has become a preferred mode of payment of purchasing goods as it increases consumptive efficiency. It, however, compromises their personal information.

Privacy is something we can’t compromise with. In today’s digital economy disclosure of personal information of customers is unavoidable. Personal details get leaked to these e-commerce platforms.

Digital shopping requires the consumers to share a lot of personal details like bank details, addresses, etc. Internet users often face the loss of privacy because of the ability of business and their websites to collect, store, and process personal data.

E-commerce transactions involve a great deal of personal information of the users such as details about their identity and disclose financial information. Therefore, such sellers need to maintain the privacy of the consumers. Two primary concerns that users of e-commerce platform would have are unauthorized access to personal information and misuse of such personal information. This privacy concern of online consumers is not regulated in India even after the introduction of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019.

Manjeet Singh V. National Insurance Company Ltd. & Anr

In this case, the Supreme Court decided to further expand the scope and ambit of protecting consumer under insurance claims by holding that an insurance company cannot reject a motor vehicle claim on the ground that giving a lift to passengers which were later stolen by them did not amount to a fundamental breach of terms of the policy.

Rediff.Com India Ltd Vs Urmila Munjal

In this case, the consumer was not satisfied with the goods delivered by the online shopping website and wanted to return the product and claim for refund. However, he did not find a return policy. The court observed that the online portal was a facilitator between the seller and buyer as mentioned in the terms of conditions, therefore, it was the duty of the facilitator to inform the consumer that how the goods are to be returned to the seller. The court held that online portal is liable on the ground of the deficiency in service for not providing sufficient information.

Anita Kushwala Vs Pushup Suda

In this case, the constitution bench of 5 judges of the supreme court held that access to justice is a fundamental right and laid down the four main facts of the essence that access to justice and the state must provide an effective adjudicatory mechanism, which must be speedy and affordable.

Consumer Rights

E-Commerce

Consumer rights and consumer protection law provides a way for individuals to fight back against abusive business practices. This law is designed to hold sellers of goods and services accountable when they take advantage of a consumer’s lack of information or bargaining power.

Dispute resolution through mediation is introduced under the Consumer Protection law. The Bill provides for the establishment of court-annexed mediation cells to redress consumer grievance through mediation.

Conclusion

E-commerce is a part of a progressive country that is experiencing exponential growth in online shopping. The e-commerce platform greatest benefit is the time saved and the ability of the consumer to choose what they want and complete his transaction with a just single click of the mouse, product information is more extensive and products’ price comparison is also possible with other websites, enabling the consumer to make informed choices. However, such relaxations are not without challenges. While the new Act has brought new changes in light of the current trends, some grave issues like the threat of right to privacy of consumers while digital shopping, has been left untouched.

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