Most consumers could not find information on the maximum retail price (MRP) and best-before dates for products on sale on e-commerce sites, according to a survey by LocalCircles, which hosts online communities on consumer issues, and tracks compliance by e-commerce sites and apps.
According to Rule 10 of Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011,all e-commerce entities have to display details of the manufacturer, 'country of origin' and common/generic name of the product, maximum retail price (MRP), and dimensions of the commodity, among others so that customers can make informed decisions.
This rule was introduced in June 2017 and provided a transition period of six months, thereby its implementation from 1 January 2018, but even after a lapse of almost four years, the above rules are not being complied by e-commerce companies.
While 50% of consumers surveyed by the platform said they were unable to find information on MRP for packaged products, four out of five consumers said they were unable to find the best-before date.
LocalCircles, however, said there was an improvement in compliance with 35% of consumers surveyed in 2021 saying they could find MRP information, compared with 22% in 2018. Platforms such as Amazon, Flipkart and Snapdeal, have the requisite fields to list the information, but some sellers and products still fail to upload the best-before date information.
LocalCircles surveyed over 19,000 consumers located across 345 districts in India. According to the report, 16% consumers said “they were able to find MRPs on less than 20% packaged products, while 33% said they could find MRPs on 20-50% products. Around 2% of those surveyed could not find MRPs online for any packaged product, it said.
Example of ecommerce apps/sites consumers where MRP compliance is not being followed:
Swiggy Instamart, Shopee do not display MRP
“Based on consumer complaints received by LocalCircles, it appears that while older e-commerce platforms such as Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal, Big Basket, and Grofers, are compliant in displaying MRP for all products, newer platforms such as Swiggy Instamart, and Shopee, are non-compliant and do not display MRP, but just a price to consumers," LocalCircles said.
Similarly, compliance on information related to best-before dates has not been significant, with over 40% of consumers surveyed saying they could find best-before dates on only 20-50% packaged human consumption products, while 10% said they found the relevant information. Over 25% of those surveyed were unable to find the information on any product listed on e-commerce sites and apps.
Not much improvement in human consumption packaged products ‘best before’ date display compliance on ecommerce sites/apps in the last 3 years, with most platfroms and sellers still not displaying this information
Example where the ‘best before/expiry date’ rule is not being followed by eCommerce sites/apps:
4 in 5 consumers say they are unable to find best before date information for human consumption packaged products on many eCommerce sites/apps despite it being a legal metrology rule
“Consumers cited Meesho as an example that does not display the best-before date on human consumption packaged products to consumers. Also, consumers outlined how on some established e-commerce platforms the best-before date field has been furnished, some sellers do not upload this information for human consumption products," the survey said.
According to LocalCircles, the department of consumer affairs must enforce the law so that non-compliant platforms and sellers take immediate action. “With purchasing via e-commerce channels coming in the mainstream in the last few years...it is critical that consumers are presented with accurate and complete information when making buying decisions," it added.
In a first, Controller of Legal Metrology and Director of Consumer Affairs- Gujarat, earlier this month announced that legal action will be initiated against companies and restaurants selling products and food items through online platforms if they are found violating rules. The Weights and Measures department has started cracking down against the errant companies and eateries in the last couple of weeks.