The government has imposed a penalty on e-commerce major Amazon for not displaying mandatory information, including the country of origin, of products sold on its platform, according to an official order.
Last month, the consumer affairs ministry had issued notices to e-commerce majors Flipkart and Amazon for not displaying such information.
The ministry has imposed a fine of Rs 25,000 on Bengaluru-based Amazon Seller Services as well as each of its directors as per the provisions of the Legal Metrology Act, 2009 and the Legal Metrology (Package Commodities) Rules, 2011.
In case of Flipkart, a senior ministry official told PTI, "Upon examination, no contravention was noticed and hence no action has been initiated."
As per the order, issued by Ashutosh Agarwal, deputy director in the ministry, Amazon Seller Services has admitted that the said information about products was not provided on the e-commerce platform by the sellers.
"In the absence of any material evidence on record to vindicate that you have exercised due diligence in discharging your duty as an intermediary, by default your company is also held responsible for the violation under reference," said the order dated November 19.
The ministry told the company that in case of marketplace model of e-commerce, responsibility of the correctness of declarations is limited to manufacturer/ dealer / seller / importer, provided the e-commerce entity providing access to the communication system fulfils certain conditions laid down in the rules. Otherwise, the e-commerce entity is also held liable.
Therefore, non-declaration of information required under the rules is contravention of the provisions of the Legal Metrology Act, 2009 and the Legal Metrology (Package Commodities) Rules, 2011 which is punishable, it said.
Further, the ministry also stated that in case no satisfactory reply is received within seven days from the date of receipt of the order, it would be constrained to initiate prosecution proceedings against the firm and all the directors of the firm at a competent court of law without any further notice.
An email sent to Amazon on the matter did not elicit any immediate response.
In the notice issued last month, the consumer affairs ministry had said, "It has been brought into notice that some of the e-commerce entities are not displaying the mandatory declaration on digital platforms required under the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011."
In similarly worded notices, the ministry had said Flipkart India Pvt Ltd and Amazon Development Centre India Pvt Ltd have to ensure that all mandatory declarations are displayed on the digital and electronic network used for e-commerce transactions.
In July, late Ram Vilas Paswan, the former consumer affairs minister, had said that state governments have been directed to strictly enforce the provision that requires companies and e-commerce players to display the 'country of origin' on all products.
The provision of declaration of 'country of origin' has been in place since January 2018 for all manufacturers, importers, packers and e-commerce players.
The commerce ministry has now been asked to ensure that e-commerce players too comply with this rule strictly, he had said.
Whether a product is sold through an offline or online platform, it is mandatory to display 'country of origin', besides other details like maximum retail price (MRP), day of expiry, net quantity and consumer care details, he had said.
In January 2018, the government amended the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011 to add a new provision, mandating declaration of 'country of origin' for manufacturers, importers, packers and e-commerce entities.
In June, the DPIIT had sought views of e-commerce firms like Amazon and Flipkart on mentioning the 'country of origin'' on each product sold through their platforms.
This came against the backdrop of calls to boycott Chinese goods following border clashes between India and China in Ladakh.
Photograph: Andrew Kelly/Reuters