India takes aim at online counterfeit sales

India has drawn up a draft e-commerce strategy that includes standards intended to protect consumers from buying counterfeit goods.

The National E-Commerce Policy – published by he Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade – comes as business to consumer e-commerce is expected to expand at a rapid pace from around $38.5bn in 2017 to $200bn in 2026.

The document notes that online sale of counterfeits is a “worrisome trend”, so a number of anti-counterfeit measures are included in the policy, including that e-commerce platforms must “publicly share all relevant details of sellers who make their products available” on their sites, including full name, address and contact details including an email and phone number.

They must also include mechanisms to allow trademark owners and their licensees to be informed about the sale of suspected counterfeits, and have a complaint mechanism with a defined process and timeline for action. It suggests that a complaint to a platform of a counterfeit should have to forwarded to the trademark holder within 12 hours.

Much of the policy is standard fare, but in a somewhat unusual move, it also suggests that in some cases e-commerce sites should have to obtain authorisation – in advance – from trademark owners “before listing high value goods, cosmetics or goods having impact on public health on their websites.” Brand owners can therefore opt not to allow any listings of their products without prior consent.

E-commerce players will also have to enter into an agreement with sellers that includes a guarantee of authenticity of the products sold, and include penalties for violations including blacklisting.

“Though post-sale, delivery of goods to the customers and customer satisfaction will be responsibility of the seller, there is a caveat to this,” says the document. “Since counterfeiting is a major concern, in case a customer makes a complaint to that effect, marketplaces would have liability to return the amount paid by the customer.”

The policy also covers anti-piracy measures for copyrighted content, saying that intermediaries must heave measures in place to prevent the dissemination of pirated material, and have a list of trusted entities whose complaints are dealt with as a priority, with takedowns happening speedily.  

An industry stakeholder body should also be created to identify ‘rogue’ websites that host predominantly infringing content, and efforts should be made to prevent these sites from generating advertising revenues.

Stakeholders have been invited to deliver comments on the draft proposals, which will be accepted until March 9.

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