New rules in the works to curb seller bias in etail search results

New Delhi: The central government is working on a new set of policies to bring about “algorithmic fairness” for consumers of ecommerce companies . The proposed rules will make it compulsory for ecommerce firms to show search results of several sellers instead of just focussing on preferred sellers, a top official said.

The rules will also restrict ecommerce companies from sharing consumers’ buying behaviour with anyone, said Rohit Kumar Singh, secretary at the Department of Consumer Affairs. Showing some chosen sellers limits the choices for consumers also and is discriminatory towards them, he added.

The objective is to make the algorithm democratic for the consumer, he said.

These rules will be a part of the framework for Open Network for Digital Commerce ( ONDC ) and will apply to all companies engaged in digital commerce including Amazon, Flipkart, Google Playstore, Apple Store, cab aggregators and hotel aggregators.

Independent sellers on ecommerce marketplaces have alleged that the platforms gave “preferential treatments” to some sellers. These sellers pop up more in product searches than third-party entities, they have claimed, and also alleged that platforms shared consumer data such as shopping behaviour with their preferred sellers which were partially or fully owned by marketplaces.

ONDC will safeguard consumer interest and protect small businesses by granting them equal opportunity, Singh said.

The framework is being worked upon by the consumer affairs ministry as well as the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade.

The proposed framework seeks to control digital monopolies and create more inclusiveness within the digital commerce ecosystem. As a platform intended to promote open networks developed on open-source methodology, ONDC will also ensure protection of consumer rights and enable small, medium and micro enterprises to get on to the digital bandwagon.The online retail sector has faced flak from small traders and offline retailers for allegedly giving […]

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