Online retailers must stop selling fakes, introduce voluntary product recall and pay compensation to buyers
An online petition by Pritee Shah, consumer activist and director of Ahmedabad-based Consumer Education and Research Centre (CERC), one of India’s largest consumer organisations, has turned the spotlight on fake products being allowed to be sold by large multinational companies such as Amazon. The petition points out how they fail to observe international norms of recall and compensation when dealing with complaints in India.
 
According to Ms Shah, a consumer purchased Lakme Eyeconic Kajal (pack of two) from Amazon this March. A slight variation in the product she received, as against her previous experience, made her suspicious. On writing to Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL), the manufacturer of Lakme Eyeconic Kajal, she discovered the product delivered to her from Amazon was a counterfeit. When she asked for a replacement, Amazon obliged and pointed fingers at the outsourced delivery agent for the fake product delivered. The seller, Sublime , “also admitted that the product it has sold/ sent is fake”, she says.
 
Subline had sold 340 packs of Lakme Eyekonic Kajal through Amazon, of which in only seven cases customers had demanded product replacement. The other customers were evidently unaware of the substitute product delivered to them. 
 
“Isn’t Amazon responsible for the products being sold on their portal? It is also possible that the fakes could contain ingredients hazardous to health – after all, it is a cosmetic product. Even though the delivery of the goods and services is outsourced by the e-commerce portal, isn't it Amazon’s duty to safeguard their customers from such counterfeit products? Consumers enter into a purchase agreement with Amazon and not the outsourced third party. Shouldn’t the counterfeit products in circulation, which could have harmful effects on the customers, be recalled?” asks the petition.  
 
It further says, “On being questioned,  Amazon says that they are just an online portal providing a service of bringing buyers and customers, spread over a wide area, together. Neither do they buy the products sold on their site nor do they hold inventory. Moreover, they claim to have a well-placed system for the vetting process of these delivery agents. Clearly these systems are not working, as sellers continue to sell counterfeit or fake products with impunity through their portal, without any penalties or consequences.” 
 
On its website, Amazon clearly states that they recall harmful products sold through their websites and suspend the seller. Moreover, they also claim to reach out to any customers who have previously purchased such impacted goods to notify them of such recall. However, this is not what they practice in reality.
 
E-commerce portals must make sure that the delivery persons must be appointed only after a thorough background check, as the customers are not going to point fingers at them. Customers are entering into an agreement with Amazon and similar e-commerce portals and not the outsourced or third party. At the same time, customers must also research third party sellers and not get fooled by the unreal deals offered by them.
 
In this case, CERC  has asked other victims of fake products to go to email enr@cercindia.org and become part of a campaign to get fair treatment for consumers.
 
Ironically, this story about the fake product being sold by Amazon was played out in front of the Secretary and Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs on 15 March 2017 at a panel discussion to celebrate World Consumer Rights Day.
 
The discussion was attended by consumer activists from around the country. One of Amazon’s senior officials made the same unacceptable defence at the discussion. Amazon has not responded to Moneylife’s email asking for its views on the episode in the past two months. (Read: Allowing Fakes and Other Issues: Amazon’s Different Standards for Indian Consumers)
 
CERC plans to campaign to ensure that online portals are stopped from selling fakes and getting away with it. It also wants Amazon to recall the 340 fake Lakme Kajal sold through its ‘dukaan’ (shop). CERC also wants the Ministry to issue guidelines to: Protect consumers of online shopping against cheating and fraud; ensure that fake products are not sold by online portals by putting in place a vetting mechanism for sellers and penalties imposed on sellers who cheat consumers. It also wants a voluntary product recall and compensation policy to be made mandatory for all e-commerce and online shopping portals.
 
It is a sad reflection on the state of consumer protection that ministry officials have not acted on this unilaterally and a petition needed to be filed to campaign for what should be a basic right. 
 
To sign the petition and join the fight, click here.
  • Like this story? Get our top stories by email.

    User

    Quitting Twitter, says Sonu Nigam after Abhijeet's account suspended
    Singer Sonu Nigam on Wednesday announced he will quit Twitter and has urged all "logical and sensible patriots" to do the same, following the suspension of singer Abhijeet Bhattacharya's micro-blogging account.
     
    "I quit Twitter today in defiance of this one sided sham," Sonu Nigam tweeted.
     
    He said: "One could disagree with Abhijeetda's language but isn't Shehla's accusation that BJP has a sex racket, provocation enough to supporters?"
     
    "If his account is deleted, why not her? And the other morons who hurl... abuses to every achiever?" he asked.
     
    Twitter on Tuesday suspended the account of Abhijeet over sexist and offensive remarks, which stirred up a storm online.
     
    In a series of tweets, Abhijeet abused some women users, particularly JNU student-activist Shehla Rashid, following which Twitter took the action.
     
    When Shehla openly discussed about sex scandals involving BJP leaders, she was "abused by Abhijeet and hundreds of Sanghi trolls".
     
    In reply to her statement, Abhijeet had tweeted: "There is a rumour she took money in advance for two hours and didn't satisfy the client. Big racket."
     
    Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.
  • User

    All the ‘News’, Not Fit To Be Shared and Aired
    An article by zerohedge.com, being widely circulated on social media, makes interesting reading. It is a scathing attack on what the author refers to as ‘corporate media’ in the US. Zerohedge points out that, despite its outrage about president Donald Trump’s administration, the US media actually has no problem with America’s economic policy being ‘outsourced to Goldman Sachs’ or its close alliance with ‘terrorist’ kingdoms or even its ‘unprovoked militarism’. He argues that the US ‘corporate media’ is ‘deliberately’ not focusing on things that really matter to people and diverting mass attention to what is still just a conspiracy theory (about Russia). It also seems to be propping up Hillary Clinton for another bash at the top job, but may only end up ensuring a second term for Donald Trump. 
     
    Doesn’t that sound almost like India? Is it a coincidence that two major news channels boast ‘exclusives’ and ‘stings’ on Lalu Prasad Yadav and his family on the eve of major action by enforcement agencies? Why is it that issues that occupy day-long debates on television, often find barely any mention in mainline newspapers the next day? Who pulls their strings? Why do issues that affect ordinary persons never receive proper discussion or aggressive follow-up by mainstream media? Isn’t it because powerful corporate houses and advertisers dictate decisions? Let’s not forget that the government (Central, state, municipal, and public sector undertakings under their control) is a major source of revenue for every mainstream media organisation. It is advertisements for government jobs, tenders, tombstones, inaugurations and commemorative advertisements that keep regional media houses alive. And, yet, we expect them to be unbiased and hard-hitting, or curse them as ‘presstitutes‘.
     
    The big media houses now have another revenue stream through mega-events, policy conclaves, summits and conferences. These are essentially networking and lobbying platforms whose financial success depends on their ability to attract Union ministers, industrialists and a sprinkling of socialites and film stars for the glamour quotient. Over the past decade, media houses have wrested this space from the once-powerful industry associations such as the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) because of their ability to attract a larger audience by broadcasting the proceedings. This has further eliminated the Chinese walls separating editorial and advertising. Today, management ‘evaluates’ everything that is fit to be aired or published and, often, involves covert and overt deals. It is a matter of survival. Most large media houses are listed entities that need to be conscious of quarter-on-quarter numbers and many have been reporting losses for a long time. 
     
    We, the people, also need to take some responsibility for this state of affairs. If most of us refuse to pay for news (which would allow us to demand unbiased news that covers a wide range of issues), there is little room for independent media to survive, gain significant size or be profitable. Consequently, we get the news coverage that is dished out to us by what zerohedge calls ‘corporate media’.
     
    It is a bigger fallacy to believe that social media is the answer. Social media does, indeed, provide a flood of information and can expose egregious cases of misreporting and doctoring. But it has a limited ability to provide regular, unbiased, curated information and analyses on a range of local, national and global issues. On the other hand, social media is even more prone to manipulation at multiple levels. Genuine analysts and bloggers who dare to expose issues are threatened and harassed. This is especially true of business issues and listed companies with dubious management. We know of at least two specific cases. In one, a renowned management professor who wrote about a Chennai-based education company was threatened with a fake criminal complaint and the cops even landed at his door with an arrest warrant. Naturally, he backed off; it was not his job to turn into an activist. In the second case, an analyst was threatened by a large brokerage firm which has been touting a dubious stock. Ideally, the fact that we have market regulators with enormous power and sprawling infrastructure ought to have ensured an effective system to ensure protection of such whistleblowers. But we have a unique system where the government and its regulators, simply refuse to engage with ordinary stakeholders, either individually or through NGO platforms. So there is no way to report wrongdoing officially or be guaranteed protection. 
     
    Then there are large corporates, movie stars, political parties and other powerful people who have let loose image management teams on social media. They provide every kind of service—from trending a non-issue, to wrecking reputations, or conducting a campaign to push a point of view. In the past fortnight, at least two such handles have been exposed on Twitter. In one case, Alt News exposed how the so-called news site Hindutva.info, which peddled fake news (it allegedly passed off a Mexican video as that of an RSS member being killed in Kerala; passed off a Bangladeshi video as one showing a Hindu being killed by Muslims; planted a story that a popular TV anchor’s sister was suspended for corruption) is run by one Rajesh Jindal who has created a network of websites, Facebook pages and groups to drive huge traffic to his website and monetise it though advertisements. 
     
    The other exposé was about how Sharad Sharma, head of Product Nation and a well-known tech evangelist, was trolling and defaming techies who were anti-Aadhaar through an anonymous handle (@Confident_India ), which is part of iSPIRIT Foundation (ispirit.in)—a policy think-tank with deep links to the tech world and the creators of Aadhaar. Kiran Jonnalagadda (a tech enthusiast and Internet freedom campaigner), who was the butt of Sharad Sharma’s anonymous attacks, has gone on to post a detailed account of Mr Sharma’s work at iSPIRT Foundation. The Foundation has a project, named Sudham, that apparently runs “an officially sanctioned trolling program where the trolls coordinate on WhatsApp and attack together on Twitter.” He has also been posting rabidly nasty tweets from the ‘safety’ of his anonymous handle. 
     
    This exposé is even more worrying than the fake news one. Mr Sharma and projects like iSPIRIT Foundation have the blessings and patronage of the powerful team behind the Unique Identity Authority of India (UIDAI) which runs the Aadhaar project and will have access to our biometrics and database links to every aspect of our lives due to mandatory linkages ordered by the government. This ought to ring serious alarm bells everywhere. After all, UIDAI is one of the most ambitious technology programmes in the world and the government is forcing us to link every aspect of our lives to the Aadhaar number, which is in its ‘safe’ custody. Unfortunately, few will be alarmed, because this will not find editorial space or merit a prime-time discussion.
     
    Social media, which is now the main source of information people consume, is even more polarising. Since it is impossible to curate the vast ocean of news and views (a job that used to be done by the media) being generated every micro-second, we end up consuming views that reinforce our beliefs and biases and spreading it around. This only foments intolerance, and poisons public discourse, leaving no room for nuance, questioning or even dispassionate criticism. This has dangerous portents for society. Each of us needs to think about its long-term implications and what it means to our individual freedom and future. 
  • Like this story? Get our top stories by email.

    User

    COMMENTS

    Khalid Mulla

    2 years ago

    Got more insight into the media-world from Sucheta madam. Salute the determination and conviction. Honesty shown in the profession. But the significant point is the need of hands and more of funds for keeping the media free from influences. Series of brainstorming sessions may bring out some sort of mechanism to run public media....

    Simple Indian

    2 years ago

    Good analysis and interesting observations on how mainstream media (MSM) functions in India, just as it does in USA. Besides points mentioned by Ms. Dalal, there is also the politician-businessman-mediaperson nexus which affects how news is reported in the media. This was amply demonstrated in the infamous Radia Tapes scandal, which involved many popular 'journalists' who were more 'power-brokers' though. No wonder, common folks felt cheated and disappointed with MSM and turned to SM for validation / verification of news 'peddled' by the MSM. Though the article is biased against SM, I believe it has been a double-edged sword, routinely calling out popular 'journos' for false reports, blatant lies, and what not. This side of SM is what makes it credible and an alternative to MSM, which has become extremely biased and rightly called 'supari journalism' in some quarters. Back in the day, politicians and mediapersons did engage for news stories and interviews, but kept a distance to maintain impartiality. This lakshman rekha has been long breached by the new-age journos who 'cultivate' politicians and vice versa. Long live impartial media !

    REPLY

    Sucheta Dalal

    In Reply to Simple Indian 2 years ago

    With due respect, the article is not biased against social media. Indeed social media is a boon and has a role, but if that is the only source of news and is considered gospel, it is as bad as mainstream media which is "called out" by readers -- or abused by trolls. As for Niira Radia -- it is the combination of business-media-PR that combines and gets paid hefty sums to 'place' news or 'native advertisements' as editorial work. We get at least one request for such a placement on Moneylife every single day. The emails say, we want to "advertise with you by placing articles with link-backs" -- but won't come forward to offer good old, honest advertising! That is how media that chooses to remain honest to its readers suffers everyday. And there are no rewards for doing so -- readers will want everything free and will be reluctant to subscribe and just as quick to ascribe motives if they don't like an article or editorial viewpoint. Is it any wonder that good journalism struggles to survive without godfathers?

    Peter Menon

    In Reply to Sucheta Dalal 2 years ago

    Thank you, Ms. Dalal, for running a media outfit that does not accept tainted advertising. Tainted advertising is becoming a disease that spreads wrong news and slanted stories that simply confuse the information landscape with dross. The digital media are no less vulnerable to misuse. Look at how Mr. Modi uses hundreds of Bhakts to feed the digital media with endorsements and glowing testimonials of the Government's activities.

    AVINASH BHOSALE

    In Reply to Sucheta Dalal 2 years ago

    Totally agree with you madam. It ours- society's obligation to uphold such a unbiased journalism. -- like moneylife for our own survival. Together we stand.

    David M. Thangliana

    2 years ago

    I like this article a lot. Throws great light on what is happening to us, the common people, through manipulations of the media by unscrupulous people

    We are listening!

    Solve the equation and enter in the Captcha field.
      Loading...
    Close

    To continue


    Please
    Sign Up or Sign In
    with

    Email
    Close

    To continue


    Please
    Sign Up or Sign In
    with

    Email

    BUY NOW

    online financial advisory
    Pathbreakers
    Pathbreakers 1 & Pathbreakers 2 contain deep insights, unknown facts and captivating events in the life of 51 top achievers, in their own words.
    online financia advisory
    The Scam
    24 Year Of The Scam: The Perennial Bestseller, reads like a Thriller!
    Moneylife Online Magazine
    Fiercely independent and pro-consumer information on personal finance
    financial magazines online
    Stockletters in 3 Flavours
    Outstanding research that beats mutual funds year after year
    financial magazines in india
    MAS: Complete Online Financial Advisory
    (Includes Moneylife Online Magazine)