Legal Rights for Online Customers in India

This article examines the laws and protections of online consumers in India, focusing on fraudulent advertising, unfair business practices and the creation of digital contracts. With the growth of e-commerce, it is important to understand the legal framework that protects the interests of consumers. The Consumer Protection Act 2019 prohibits fraudulent reporting and empowers consumers to seek compensation for loss or injury caused by fraud. CPAs can address unfair business practices that lead to customer dissatisfaction and refunds, such as incorrect pricing and hidden fees. The creation of digital contracts is governed by the Contracts Act of India 1872, which recognizes electronic documents and digital signatures that can be used to form legal contracts.
Customers have the right to clarify terms and conditions and can contact the customer resolution forum to resolve the dispute. India can create a fair and secure online economy by raising consumer awareness and regulating the market.


Research Question
What laws and protections are provided to online consumers in India, particularly regarding fraudulent advertising, unfair business practices and digital contract design?

As the digital environment continues to evolve, online consumer protection has become an important aspect of maintaining integrity and security in virtual commerce. In India, where e-commerce has grown significantly, it is important to understand the law and the protection of online consumers.
This article focuses on key issues of concern in Indian law such as fraud, unfair business practices and the creation of digital contracts.

Deceptive advertising
Deceptive advertising is the transmission of false information or deception that may mislead consumers through advertising. By law, deceptive advertising violates consumer protection laws and regulations. It affects consumer confidence, distorts competition in the industry and can lead to financial loss for unsuspecting consumers.

Fraudulent advertising in India is mainly regulated by the Consumer Protection Act 2019 (CPA) and the rules and guidelines it has established.
The CPA prohibits unfair trading practices, including deceptive advertisements that misrepresent the nature, quality or standard of a product or service. It allows consumers to claim compensation for loss or injury suffered as a result of false advertising.

The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) also plays an important role in advertising regulation. ASCI is a self-regulatory body made up of representatives of the advertising industry, consumer organizations and governments. Establishes a code of ethics and guidelines for advertising to ensure fair and responsible advertising.
To determine whether an ad is fraudulent, court and consumer dispute resolution forums consider several factors, including the following:

1. Misrepresentations or Fraud: Ads that contain false or misleading information about a product or service may be considered fraud. For example, products advertising “100% natural” can be misleading when the product contains artificial ingredients.

2. Lack of information: Advertising may be considered fraudulent if the information is deliberately omitted, misleading or disclosed correctly. For example, an advertisement that does not explain the significant side effects of a drug may be considered false.

3. Exaggerated or Unsubstantiated Claims: Exaggerated or unsubstantiated claims about products, performance or benefits can be misleading. Advertisements for weight loss products that make false promises without scientific evidence fall into this category.

4. Comparative Advertising: Although comparative advertising is allowed, it must be accurate, factual, and not falsely criticizing a competitor’s product. Unfair presentation of competitors’ products or false comparisons will be considered cheating.

Consumers have the right to raise their complaints through a consumer dispute resolution forum such as the National Consumer Dispute Resolution Council (NCDRC), the government’s consumer dispute resolution body. Fraud exists. These councils are empowered to provide compensation for business violations, take corrective action and take appropriate action.
To strengthen consumer protection and prevent fraudulent advertisements, regulators and consumer organizations in India work with self-reporting regulatory bodies such as ASCI to monitor advertisements, investigate complaints and ensure compliance with advertising standards and guidelines.
It is important for businesses to ensure that their advertisements are accurate, transparent and do not mislead consumers. By complying with laws and ethical standards, businesses can build trust with customers and contribute to fair and responsible trading.
Online platforms, including websites and social media, are responsible for displaying accurate and non-misleading information about products and services. Consumers have the right to demand compensation and complain to the relevant authorities when they encounter fraudulent advertisements. The CPA allows the consumer to file a claim for any loss or injury suffered as a result of misrepresentation.

Unfair commercial practices
Unfair commercial practices in the online marketplace are activities that are considered unfair, deceptive or harmful to consumers. These practices undermine fair competition, violate consumer rights and may lead to financial loss. From a legal point of view, many laws and regulations in India have been created to combat and prevent unfair business practices in the online marketplace.

1. Consumer Protection Act (CPA) 2019: Unfair business practices under the CPA include:
a. Misrepresentation: Making false or misleading statements about products or services, such as showing negative aspects of products, features, or benefits.
b. Unfair Terms: Placing unfair or unreasonable conditions on consumers, including hidden fees, false promises, or unfair dismissal or refund rights.
c. MLM: Participation in pyramid schemes or multi-level marketing to exploit customers by promising high returns through recruitment rather than selling legitimate products or services.
d. Unfair pricing: Controlling prices, manipulating prices, or using unfair prices to lure and exploit customers.

2. Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Code of Ethics for Digital Media) Regulations 2021: Enacted in the Information Technology Law of 2000, these Regulations regulate digital intermediaries, including e-commerce platforms. Their aim is to prevent unfair business practices in the online space. Key requirements include:

A. Transparency and Accountability: Agents must provide clear and understandable information, disclose vendor information, and have a grievance resolution process.

B. Unfair Trading Prohibition: Agents are prohibited from engaging in unfair trading, including false advertising, false information or manipulation, and ratings.

C. Counterfeit and pirated products: Agents should take measures to prevent the sale of counterfeit and pirated products on their platforms and develop procedures to resolve IP-related issues.

3. Competition Law, 2002: Competition Law promotes fair competition and protects the interests of consumers. It prohibits anti-competitive agreements, abuse of market importance, and unfair trading practices that distort competition. This law applies to online businesses and can address issues such as disruptive pricing, exclusionary schemes, and unfair contract terms.
To claim compensation for unfair business practices, consumers can file a complaint at a consumer complaints forum such as NCDRC no, state consumer disputes or regional consumer conferences. These forums have the power to issue compensation, order corrections, and penalize businesses found to be unfair.
Accordingly, India has laws and regulations in place to protect consumers from unfair business practices in online stores. By following these laws, businesses can build trust, encourage fair competition, and make the store more efficient and effective for customers.

Digital contract design
Digital contract design is an essential part of online trading.
It involves creating legal contracts between consumers and online businesses. Digital contracts in India are governed by the Indian Contract Act 1872. The law recognizes electronic documents and digital signatures as the necessary legal basis for the contract.

To protect consumers, online businesses must provide clear and understandable information, including prices, shipping, return policies, and standard problem-solving procedures. The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Code of Ethics for Digital Media) Act 2021 also highlights the importance of transparency and accountability for digital intermediaries, including e-commerce platforms.
In the event of a dispute arising from a digital contract, the customer has the right to contact the appropriate customer resolution forum or seek alternative solutions such as mediation or decision making. The aim is to provide fair and efficient solutions to customers.

Case Law
1. Amazon Seller Services Pty Ltd. Limited company V. Amway India Enterprises Pvt Ltd and others. Civil Appeal Number 5725 of 2018 (Supreme Court of India)
In this case, the Supreme Court of India emphasized the responsibility of online businesses to ensure the authenticity of products and protect against unfair trading practices. The court said e-commerce platforms like Amazon have a duty to protect online consumers by preserving the authenticity of products and preventing fake sales.

2. Shreya Singhal v. Petition of Indian Union (Guilty) No. 167 of 2012 (Supreme Court of India)
This landmark case addressed the issues of online freedom of expression and media responsibility. The Supreme Court issued Section 66A of the Information Technology Act 2000, which punishes people who post false or misleading information online. The decision supports the rights of internet users and clarifies the role of intermediaries in protecting freedom of expression and expression.

3. Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. Mr. V. Ashok S. Raj Complaint No. CC/13/114 (South Goa Regional Consumer Dispute Resolution Forum)
In this case, the Regional Consumer Dispute Resolution Forum mentioned fraud. The Forum believes that false promotion in advertising is an unethical practice. Consumers are accused of offering compensation for losses caused by the automaker’s false advertising.

4. M/s. Flipkart India Pvt. Ltd. V.M/s. Nagender Chaudhary Original Petition No. 115 (National Commission for Mediation in Consumer Disputes) of 2016
This document deals with disputes related to defective products purchased online. The National Council for Consumer Dispute Resolution believes that online businesses like Flipkart as an intermediary are equally responsible for the quality and authenticity of the products sold on the platform. Authorities instructed platforms to reverse purchases and pay customers.

Online customer protection is critical to building trust and confidence in the digital economy. Laws and regulations are in place in India to protect the rights of consumers and to provide adequate protection against fraud, unfair business practices and issues related to the creation of digital contracts. However, customers should be aware of their rights and actively enforce them in the event of a crime or violation.
By promoting consumer awareness, strengthening regulatory frameworks and promoting responsible business practices, India can create an environment where online consumers are protected and empowered to make informed decisions. Governments, regulators and industry stakeholders must continue to work to adapt to the evolving challenges of protecting consumers online and ensuring the justice and stability that makes digital business safe for all.


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