The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) has sent notices to two e-commerce entities for gross violations relating to sale of acid reported on their platforms.
The CCPA, the watchdog of consumer interest in India under the Department of Consumer Affairs, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, has directed Flipkart Internet private Limited and Fashnear Technologies Private Limited (meesho.com) to furnish detailed responses along with necessary supporting documents within seven days.
The notices were issued in the wake of the recent unfortunate incident of acid attack on a 17-year-old in Delhi whereby media reports have highlighted that the alleged offenders had purchased the said acid from Flipkart,
Following the incident, the CCPA has questioned the easy and unregulated availability of highly corrosive acids for sale on these e-platforms, the ministry stated, adding that availability of hazardous acids in such accessible manner can be dangerous and unsafe for consumers and to public at large.
It may be mentioned that in furtherance of the directions of the Supreme Court in the matter of Laxmi vs Union Of India & Ors [(2014) 4 SCC 427], the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India had issued an Advisory on “Measures to be taken to prevent acid attacks on people and for treatment and rehabilitation of survivors” on 30th August 2013, wherein all the states/UTs were advised to take immediate steps to implement the measures mentioned therein for reduction of acid attacks and treatment and rehabilitation of acid attack survivors as well as any other measure as may be deemed fit.
Since these e-commerce platforms operate and deliver their products across the length and breadth of the nation, they have been asked to provide the checks and compliances undertaken by them in this regard, the ministry stated.
CCPA, on a suo moto examination of online sale of corrosive acids, came across Meesho and found it to be selling such acids in violation of directions of the Supreme Court as well as the Advisory issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs. Any non-compliance by these e-commerce entities with the directions of CCPA’s notices will be strictly dealt with as per the provisions of Consumer Protection Act, 2019, the ministry stated.
The ‘consumer rights’ as defined under Section 2(9) of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 includes the right to be protected against the marketing of goods, products or services which are hazardous to life and property. Sale of highly corrosive acids in an easy, accessible and unregulated manner without any due diligence whatsoever by the e-marketplace entity can lead to disastrous consequences to the consumers, especially the vulnerable sections of the society, namely women and children.
As per Section 4 (3) of Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020, no e-commerce entity shall adopt any unfair trade practice, whether in the course of business on its platform or otherwise.
Considering the urgent need and attention, CCPA has taken suo moto note of the present matter, as under Section 18 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 which empowers it to protect, promote and enforce the rights of consumers as a class, and prevent violation of consumer rights, as well as prevent unfair trade practices and ensure that no person engages himself in such practices.
Through this intervention, CCPA wishes to strengthen the interest of consumers and is committed towards safety and protection of their well-being.