Ministry to keep close watch on online storesThe Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies is creating a guideline to keep tabs on online shopping platforms amid concerns over possible fraud and business misconduct.
The Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies is creating a guideline to keep tabs on online shopping platforms amid concerns over possible fraud and business misconduct.
The government has no separate mechanism to monitor online stores whose numbers have been growing of late. Online shopping platforms such as Daraz, eSewapasal, Sastodeal, Metro Tarkari, Bhatbhateni Online, Foodmario, Foodmandu, Urban Girl and hamrobazaar are among those that have been pulling in customers.
The online stores sell a wide range of products including apparels, electronic appliances, vegetables, prepared foods, furniture and household items. The e-commerce business in Nepal is estimated to be worth $25 million a year.
Cases of business misconduct have been rising along with the increase in the number of online stores, and customers are being cheated, said consumer rights activists. Late delivery, exchange and refund problems, sales of substandard and secondhand products, and overcharging are some of the issues with online shopping, they said.
Adish Prasain of Gothatar purchased a vaporiser from one of the online platforms but received a used product. “It took me three months to get a refund from the company,” said Prasain, adding that he spent a large amount of money on telephone calls to the seller. According to the Consumer Protection Act 2018, the seller is required to provide a refund within seven days if the consumer returns the goods.
Nawaraj Dhakal, joint secretary of the ministry, said they were holding consultations with a number of government bodies to prepare the guideline. “As the ministry lacks information technology equipment and manpower to keep track of e-commerce platforms, we are seeking the help of other government agencies,” Dhakal said.
Yogendra Gauchan, director general of the Department of Supply Management and Protection of Consumers Interest, said they had not received any written complaints against online sellers. “We have started work to develop a separate modality for market inspection,” said Gauchan. The existing laws contain adequate provisions to check e-commerce, he added.
Consumer rights activists said they were receiving a growing number of complaints against online stores. “Most of them have to do with overcharging and sales of duplicate products,” said Prem Lal Maharjan, president of the National Consumers Forum. Maharjan blamed government agencies for lack of interest in taking action against business misconduct. He said that a number of online sellers had been collecting hefty delivery fees from consumers despite announcing free delivery.