New Delhi: Around 72 per cent of people who use e-commerce to buy products or services feel the government should not ban or intervene in sales or discounts offered on such platforms, a survey by LocalCircles has found.
On 21 June, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs proposed changes to the Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020, as part of which it suggested a ban on “flash sales”, “where technology is used to enable only a specific seller or group of sellers managed by the e-commerce company to sell goods or services on its platform”.
The proposed change is to monitor deep discounts offered on e-commerce sites, reportedly because of complaints received against cheating and unfair trade practices by some e-traders.
The survey conducted by LocalCirles — a social media platform for people to discuss issues — the results of which was released Wednesday, also found that 43 per cent of consumers had sought ‘country of origin’ information while shopping online for all their purchases during the past six months. The government, in the proposed amendment to the e-commerce rules, has made mention of ‘Country-of-Origin’ information mandatory, in an attempt to inform consumers whether the product has been made in India or not.
The survey received over 82,000 responses from consumers in 394 districts. While 62 per cent of the respondents were men, 38 per cent were women; 45 per cent of the respondents were from tier 1 districts, 30 per cent from tier 2, and 25 per cent respondents were from tier 3, 4, and rural districts.
The consumer preferences indicated by the new survey are significant since it also found that 49 per cent respondents have preferred to shop online in the past 12 months.
’49 per cent say they prefer online shopping’
According to a report by Fintech Razorpay, an online payment gateway, published in January 2021, online transactions in India grew by 80 per cent in 2020 as compared to that in the previous year, indicating a huge adoption of digital payment methods by consumers and businesses. The same report added that e-commerce in India witnessed a significant growth of 148 per cent during the same period.
The reason for the overwhelming use of online commerce is probably the global Covid pandemic that hit last year, restricting people to their homes for long periods of time.
The findings of the LocalCircles survey too support the trend in favour of online shopping.
When asked what has been their primary mode of buying for themselves and their families in the past 12 months, 26 per cent of the 10,818 respondents said they “visited malls, local retailers, markets and shops”, 22 per cent said they “called local retail stores and got home deliveries”, while 49 per cent — the highest — said “eCommerce sites and apps” have been their preferred mode of shopping in the past 12 months.
According to the survey results on why those who use online shopping do so, while 79 per cent of 10,842 respondents said they use e-commerce for “convenience and safety”, 64 per cent said they do so for “more selection and choice” options, and 61 per cent claimed to use it for “competitive pricing and easy returns”.
Not surprisingly, therefore, 72 per cent of the 10,738 respondents in the LocalCircles survey said the government should not restrict e-commerce sites and apps from offering heavy discounts and sales. Only 19 per cent of respondents replied in the affirmative to the question whether government rules for consumer protection should restrict e-commerce sites/apps from offering heavy discounts and sales. Nine per cent of the respondents did not have an opinion on the matter.
To a question on why consumers who shop during online sales do so, 54 per cent of 10,861 respondents said it “allows them to buy things that they normally can’t in terms of selection or price”, 14 per cent said it “allows them to save to buy more”, 31 per cent said that they “want to be careful with their spending in pandemic times”, while one per cent said they did not have an opinion on it.
The flagging of misleading advertisements on e-commerce platforms was the only major concern voiced by respondents, and the consumers requested the government to frame an advertisement code to regulate advertisements, where brands have claimed immunity and protection from Covid through the use of products like disinfectants and ayurvedic medicines.
Seeking ‘Country of Origin’
To the question of how often they looked for ‘Country of Origin’ information on e-commerce platforms in the past six months, out of the 18,324 respondents, 43 have said they “did it for all purchases”.
Another 13 per cent said they “did it for 25-50 per cent of the purchases”, while 4 per cent said they “did it for 10-25 per cent of the purchases”. Only 26 per cents of the respondents said they “never” referred to the information, while 5 per cent said they did not have an opinion on the matter.
When asked about their preference on how ‘Country of Origin’ information should be presented, of the 20,678 respondents who answered this question, 29 per cent said the sites should “provide information in text format under product description and specification”, while 29 per cent said there should be “actual image of product packaging, including the principal display panel and MRP tag”. Forty per cent of the respondents said “either way is fine as long as information is made available”, while 2 per cent did not have an opinion on the matter.
LocalCircles plans to share the findings of the survey with the Department of Consumer Affairs, so they can be given due consideration as the draft amendment for Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) rules 2020 is finalised.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)