Fake review now norms: Centre steps in to stem rot

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By Our Special Correspondent

New Delhi, November 21: Ever wondered why publishers launch books on major e-commerce platforms and discourage independent booksellers from promoting such new works of authors! What’s more revealing of the deep nexus of the rot of the fake review business model is that independent book sellers allege that even celebrity authors are complicit in this organised rigging of the ratings to drive sales.

The Centre appears finally waking up to the challenge posed by the major e-commerce platforms, which are backed by tech giants, to turn the spotlight on the rigging of the reviews. Indeed, the reviews drive sales of goods on the e-commerce, and this section is seen to be the principal driver of the business of the major e-commerce platforms, which now stand a monopoly of a few players.

Narendra Modi-led NDA government at the Centre on Monday launched the framework for safeguarding and protecting consumer interest from fake and deceptive reviews on e-commerce platforms. The measures include steps such as verification of review author, moderation and publication process for the standard conformity assessment scheme, which will be developed in 15 days.

The Department of Consumer Affairs launched the framework for safeguarding and protecting consumer interest from fake and deceptive reviews in e-commerce on Monday. Rohit Kumar Singh, Secretary, Department of Consumer Affairs, along with senior officers of the department and Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), launched the framework titled ‘Indian Standard (IS) 19000:2022 Online Consumer Reviews — Principles and Requirements for their Collection, Moderation and Publication’. The standards will be applicable to every online platform which publishes consumer reviews.

“The standard will initially be voluntary for compliance by all e-commerce platforms. BIS will also develop a Conformity Assessment Scheme for the standard to assess compliance.  The guiding principles of the standard are integrity, accuracy, privacy, security, transparency, accessibility and responsiveness. The standard prescribes specific responsibilities for the review author and the review administrator,” said the Ministry in an official statement.

For review author, these include confirming acceptance of terms and conditions, providing contact information and for review administrator, these include safeguarding personal information and training of staff, said the Ministry, adding that once made mandatory, if required, the violation of the standards by any entity may be considered as an unfair trade practice or violation of consumer rights and a consumer may submit such grievances to the National Consumer Helpline, Consumer Commissions or the CCPA.

The standard provides for responsibilities of organization including developing a code of practice, and necessary stipulations for terms and conditions like accessibility, criteria, and ensuring content does not contain financial information, etc. The standard also provides for methods for verification of review author through email address, identification by telephone call or SMS, confirming registration by clicking on a link, using captcha system, etc., to check traceability and genuineness of the review author.

“With respect to moderation, the standard provides for both automated and manual moderation and provides checks for analyzing the review content. As regards to publication, the standard includes considerations for the review administrator at the time of publication process and after the publication process. The accuracy of the review, default display and weightage of ratings are defined in the publication process,” added the Ministry.

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