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June 30, 2020

Petition filed in Supreme Court to compulsory show “Country of origin” for all products on e- commerce site

by Rubina Dsouza in Legal Court Judgement

Petition filed in Supreme Court to compulsory show “Country of origin” for all products on e- commerce site

Introduction

A writ petition has been filed under Article 32 of the Constitution of India seeking direction to formulate a law that mandates all the e-commerce industry/ business houses selling goods in India, through any channel to display the Country of Origin in such a way that is legible easily by the consumers; making the consumer’s aware of the ‘Country of Origin’ so as the Consumer can make an informed decision.

Petition was raised on the following Questions of Law?

  1. Whether the consumer has the right to know the ‘Country of Origin’ or not so as to take a conscious decision?
  2. Whether Respondent shall attract penalties upon the e-commerce industry for non- disclosure of the ‘Country of Origin’ on the products they are selling, as it is nothing less than cheating with the consumers, as it is a matter of right for the consumers to be aware about the Country of Origin so as they can take an informed decision?
  3. Whether the e-commerce portals shall not have a mandate for disclosing the ‘Country of Origin’ like that has been established by the Government-E Market place?
  4. Whether the Respondent can be directed to formulate strict laws/ legislation, wherein it becomes a mandate for all the e-commerce portals, wherein, all the goods sold in India by them through any channel, covering every link in the supply chain, shall display the ‘Country of Origin’ prominently or not?

Electronic Commerce in India

  1. Electronic commerce (E-commerce) refers to the buying and selling of physical goods or services using the internet. India has become one of the largest consumer markets for e-commerce industries.
  2. According to Section 2(16) of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, E-commerce means buying or selling of goods or services including digital products over digital or electronic network.
  3. The growth of these e-commerce industries in India has bought in many old and new players in the market like Amazon India, Flipkart, Snapdeal ,etc.; which are very prominent in this industry and earn a lot of revenue from the nation.
  4. Online shopping has in fact, become a trend owing to the development of the web portals. India is developing rapidly more towards the e-commerce industry due to the benefits it has for instance time saving, etc.

E-commerce during the COVID 19 pandemic

  1. With the outbreak of the COVID 19 pandemic, it has rather become more convenient to shop from the online web portals which is much safer in comparison to visit the physical stores.
  2. Even during the lockdown period when the shops were shut, it was the e-commerce industries only that were providing people with essential commodities at their doorstep. This depicts the importance of these industries in our lives.

Grounds of Petition

  1. According to Section 2(9) of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, Consumer rights includes the right to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods, products or services, as the case may be, so as to protect the consumer against unfair trade practices
  2. One of the imperative right of a consumer is that they should be aware of the Country of Origin of the product. This can be determined by the Rules of Origin under the trade law.
  3. Rules of Origin are needed to determine the country of origin of each product and thus these rules are very crucial in the International Trade. For this purpose ‘Made in (Country)’ labels are attached to the products.
  4. One can always locate the ‘made in country’ labels while purchasing from the physical stores. However, the e-commerce portals do not provide the same. The e-commerce portals consists a lot of filters to find out the material, quality, care, etc of the products however, they do not provide a filter disclosing the ‘Country of Origin’.
  5. As on today, the entire country is united and standing together showing allegiance to the nation, as an effect of the loss of lives of our soldiers owing to the India-Chinese conflict in the Ladakh region and thus are running a nationwide campaign pertaining to the boycott of all the Chinese products / applications through which China generates revenue in crores.
  6. The Indian consumers are still kept in dark by not disclosing the Country of Origin, for if the consumers do not know where the products are made, they cannot stop buying them or let the consumers make an informed decision.
  7. In the event of such extra-ordinary circumstance when the entire nation stands united and there is a wave flowing in the country for boycotting the Chinese products, by non- disclosure of the ‘Country of Origin’ on the web-portals, these giant business houses/ e- commerce portals are not only playing with the patriotic feelings of the Indians but also are proving fatal in the efforts of each and every citizen of India in boycotting the Chinese products and also are blocking the way in promoting the local manufacturers/ brands as called for by our Prime Minister so that the country becomes self -reliant as is the need of the hour
  8. That until and unless the consumer is not aware about the country where the product is manufactured, they cannot walk on the path of boycotting Chinese items and promoting the local brands.
  9. According to the Confederation of All India Traders (CIAT) most of the goods sold on the e-commerce portals are Chinese and they have also sought from the Ministry of Commerce & Industry for disclosure of ‘country of origin’ information on all products sold via e-commerce portals.  

In the light of above , the petition was prayed as under:-

1.Supreme Court may:-

i. Issue a writ of mandamus or any other appropriate writ to the respondent to formulate a law, which makes it  mandatory for all the e-commerce portals like Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal, etc. to disclose and display the Country of Origin for all goods sold in India in a proper size that makes it legible for the consumers to read it.

Or

ii. Amend the Section 2(9) of the Consumer Protection Act 2019 and add that the consumer’s right shall also include the right of the consumer to know the ‘Country of Origin’ in the e-commerce portals.

2. Non-disclosure of the Country of Origin should attract stringent penal provisions.

3. Respondent shall function in such a way that ensures strict implementation of the same.

4. Or to pass such other orders and further orders as may be deemed necessary on the facts and in the circumstances of the case.

Its a developing story and SC order will be shared

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