PREVAILING STATUS OF E-COMMERCE LAWS IN INDIA

Introduction

The COVID-19 pandemic is responsible for enforcing certain habits in our daily lives. One such practice that is in a way enforced on us is online shopping. The e-commerce industry during COVID-19, unlike most other industries, is expanding and has benefited the most from this pandemic. Increased consumer investment in the e-commerce business has led to an increase in cybercrime, highlighting loopholes in Indian cybercrime law. The main reason the law does not include such crimes is that general law (not specifically designed for cybercrime) are used for such crimes or laws related to e-commerce. This is because the nature of the law is unclear and ambiguous. Certain changes have been made to update these laws, but they have not yet significantly affected crime rates. This blog aims to highlight the issues arising from the outdated nature of the country’s e-commerce law, as well as the concerns of key consumers. Quarantine and store closures are turning shoppers to online channels to buy groceries, convenience goods and other merchandise. Most of them were new users of digital mode during self-isolation. As a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, traditional ways of buying and paying have been changing.

The legality of Electronic Contracts under the Indian Technology Act 2000

The Information Technology Act 2000 (IT Act) is a set of laws governing the use of electronic documents and all contractual characteristics of electronic documents, including identification, time of transmission, receipt, location and attributes.  However, the IT Act should be read in conjunction with the Indian Contract Act of 1872. Contract Law requires any contract to be lawful must contain three main elements: There must be an offer to be accepted without change, and the contract must be compensated to the one who suffered the loss in some way if either party to the contract breaches the terms. However, the most important issue in such an agreement is the definition of acceptance of the proposal by the receiving party. Also, except for traditional communication methods, Internet communication does not involve a direct connection between the sender and the recipient of an e-mail. Upon delivery, the transmission is disassembled into parts. This raises concerns about the precise timing of acceptance of communications that are important in determining the rights of the parties. Article 13 of the Information Technology Act describes how to determine the exact time and place to send and receive e-mail.

Classification of Electronic Contracts

Shrink-Wrap Contract: It is a standard or license agreement or other condition accompanying a product. By using the product, the consumer agrees to the contract. The term “shrink-wrap” describes a plastic shrink wrap containing a software box or shipping conditions.

Browse-Wrap Contracts: The Browse-wrap contract governs your access to or use of the materials available on the website or downloadable product. An individual can access the content of a web page only if he or she agrees to the web page’s terms and conditions. In most cases, a website contains a statement that by continuing to use the website or downloaded software, you agree to the terms and conditions mentioned.

Click-wrap Contracts: Click-wrap contracts are most commonly encountered as part of the software package installation process. There are also instances in which you will find yourself in a click-through agreement or click-through license. This is a non-negotiable take-it-or-leave-it agreement. Clicking “I agree” or “OK” will allow the customer to purchase or use the service if they like the product. If they decline, they cannot order or use the service.

Transactional concern relating to E-Commerce

Confidentiality: Completing your online purchase will collect a lot of personal information such as your user ID, browsing habits, hobbies and financial information. This can lead to two major privacy issues: data breaches and unauthorized access to sensitive information.

Identification of Genuinity of a Person: In particular, e-commerce involving customers often occurs between strangers, raising questions about an individual’s identity and status, and their authority and ability to enter into contracts.

System Protection: All sensitive information added by users, such as personal information, passwords, and other sensitive data, is stored on the computer of the e-commerce company, so security is important. Security risks can be external i.e. from the viruses, hackers, malware and internal i.e. from within your organization.

Protection of Consumer Rights: Consumers have little bargaining power when it comes to e-commerce related transactions. In addition, electronic contracts are flooded with terms and conditions. Under electronic contracts, consumers are not considered equal. Even if the proceedings are terminated, the courts uphold the terms of the online contract and the customer is the least protected from the proceedings. This raises the issue of consumer protection. This is the main reason why customer rights are being talked about. 

Challenges faced during E-commerce sham Identification: Prevailing e-commerce fraud detection systems are not suitable for use on large-scale digital shopping platforms with billions of users and products or have been designed for application areas such as phone fraud, search engine click fraud and tax evasion. The following challenges are encountered when detecting fraud:

Scalability: Fraudulent products typically disguise themselves as billions of seemingly harmless items, making detecting them difficult, if not impossible, on very sophisticated systems.

Efficacy: Advertising strategies for fraudulent products are constantly updated, and ads are designed to mimic innocent people’s behaviour As a result, it is very difficult to detect fraud related to e-commerce and even harder to punish those who do it legally.

Conclusion

In reality, Indian law still has many loopholes that scammers (the e-commerce industry) continue to abuse and endanger their shoppers. In addition, this pandemic has also contributed to the increased use of e-commerce platforms. This has attracted the attention of legislators, and as a result, various efforts have recently been made to strengthen less robust legislation. As a result, cybercrime has dropped significantly. However, it is important to realize that most consumers are still unaware of these legislative changes. Also, note that many of these measures remain ambiguous and aid cybercrime in thriving. The main goal of these legislators should be to ensure that the legislative changes are accurate and uninterpretable.

Author(s) Name: Shashwat Sinha (KIIT University, Bhubaneswar)

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