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Posted at: Feb 11, 2018, 1:43 AM; last updated: Feb 11, 2018, 1:43 AM (IST)

Trapped in opaque pricing

Vijay C Roy in Chandigarh
e-tailers trick consumers by not disclosing MRP and other details, in violation of norms
Trapped in  opaque pricing
Vijay C Roy in Chandigarh

If you think e-stores bring transparency to prices and the genuineness of goods they sell, think again.  Here’s why: every rational individual would love to buy something at the least price. So, it’s hard to resist discounts. For instance, Manpreet Singh, a Chandigarh resident, was tempted to  buy grocery products from an e-store, which was offering lucrative discounts. On receiving his order, he was disappointed as the discount he got was marginal considering the Maximum Retail Price (MRP). To enjoy a mere discount, he even ditched his karyanawallah, who would have helped him save even some extra bucks. This is because the e-store tricked him by not displaying the MRP.

Manpreet is not the only one who’s been deceived. The practice of  ‘fake discount’ is an ongoing thing. E-commerce sites know consumers love discounts. So, they display products on inflated MRPs and offer discounts.

Same old story

The rise of e-commerce has done nothing to improve transparency as consumers shopping at e-tailers are exposed to very limited information about the products. Unlike shopping at traditional brick-and-mortar stores, shoppers can’t touch items to assess quality, read tags for details, or ask a shop assistant about their specifications. It is important that proper regulations are put in place to protect consumers and deny unfair advantage to e-stores. 

The Department of Consumer Affairs had amended the Packaged Commodity Rules in June last year. It made it mandatory for e-commerce firms to display the MRP on goods and information such as expiry date and customer care details from January 1, 2018. The companies were given six months to comply with the new rules.

It has been more than a month, but most of the e-commerce sites have not complied with the orders. In fact, they have sought more time to adhere to the new norms. A poll conducted by LocalCircles, a social networking site, showed that 60% of the 15,000 respondents were not able to find the MRP of products on these sites. And 69% respondents said expiry date was still not being disclosed.

Call for transparency

“The new rules will make price disclosure transparent,” said K Yatish Rajawat, chief strategy officer, LocalCircles.  A Sriram, a consumer, said, “e-commerce entities are violating consumer rights and it is the duty of the government to control these violations.” Praveen Khandelwal, Secretary General, CAIT, said, “We demand action against e-commerce companies that are flouting government guidelines. We will take up the matter with the ministry.”

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