Govt. asks e-commerce food business operators to improve consumer grievance redressal mechanism
New Delhi, June 14, 2022
The Department of Consumer Affairs in the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution has directed major e-commerce food business operators (FBOs) to furnish the current framework as well as a proposal on improving the consumer grievance redressal mechanism within 15 days.
The direction was given during a meeting chaired by Rohit Kumar Singh, Secretary, Department of Consumer Affairs, here on Monday with FBOs to discuss issues which affect consumers in this sector.
The meeting was attended by major online food business operators including Swiggy and Zomato as well as the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI).
During the last 12 months, over 3,631 grievances have been registered on the National Consumer Helpline (NCH) (1915) against Swiggy and 2,828 have been registered against Zomato. Both the companies are convergence partner on NCH.
For Swiggy, the maximum of 22 per cent of complaints were for deficiency in services (803 complaints), followed by 17 per cent for non-delivery/delay in delivery of products (628 complaints) along with delivery of defective/damaged product (456 complaints or 13 per cent), delivery of wrong products (401 complaints), paid amount not refunded (391 complaints), product/product accessories missing (240 complaints), charging more than MRP (213 complaints), and non-vegetarian food delivered instead of vegeterian and vice versa (105 complaints).
For Zomato, deficiency in services topped the list, too, at 25 per cent (707 complaints) followed 18 per cent for delivery of defective/damaged product (499 complaints) along with non-delivery/delay in delivery of product (319 complaints), paid amount not refunded (307 complaints), and delivery of wrong products (298 complaints).
During the meeting, major issues raised by the consumers on National Consumer Helpline of DoCA were discussed, including veracity of the amount of delivery and packing charges and the reasonability of such charges, disparity between the price and quantity of food items shown on the platform and actually offered by the restaurant, inconsistency in the delivery time shown to consumers at the time of placing an order and the time at which the order is actually delivered, and absence of any mechanism to separate genuine reviews from fake ones.
The NRAI raised the issue of customer information not being shared by the e-commerce FBOs with the restaurants which impacts their ability to serve the consumer needs better. Further, delivery charges are determined and levied by the latter. Further, a commission of around 20% is also charged by the online FBOs on each order.
E-commerce FBOs were directed by the Department to transparently show consumers the breakup of all charges included in the order amount such as delivery charges, packaging charges, taxes, surge pricing, and so on. Platforms must also show individual consumer reviews transparently and refrain from showing only the aggregation of reviews. It was emphasized that the right of choice for a consumer should be respected and the e-commerce FBOs were advised to allow consumers the choice to share their contact information with the restaurants, if the consumers want so.
Nidhi Khare, Additional Secretary, Department of Consumer Affairs, and Anupam Mishra, Joint Secretary also attended the meeting.
The e-commerce FBOs observed that prices of food items are decided by the restaurants and they have a grievance redressal mechanism in place which does have a scope for improvement considering the number and nature of grievances registered by consumers.
During the meeting, stakeholders acknowledged the need to address consumer grievances closely and develop a robust grievance redressal framework. They assured the meeting that the concerns raised would be duly taken into consideration and the proposed improved and transparent framework would be shared with the Department in 15 days.