The e-commerce sector, which has been registering the largest number of consumer complaints on the National Consumer Helpline among all sectors since the past year, is set to see a in October due to the e-commerce sales, led by Flipkart and Amazon India.

The share of e-commerce complaints, which stood at 18% in September, is expected to increase to at least 20% of the total complaints this month, with the two largest e-tailing platforms registering the maximum complaints, as per official sources.

As per statistics from the National Consumer Helpline, the share of e-commerce in overall grievances stood higher than in sectors such as telecom and banking, which had a share of 12% and 8%, respectively.

In September, the number of e-commerce-related consumer complaints surged by 22% over last year, forming 18% of 47,000 complaints, which means e-commerce saw 8,500 complaints. Last September, when the main festive sales by e-commerce players were held, 6,908 complaints were registered on the helpline for e-commerce.

Complaints against Flipkart stood at 1,236, and 1,052 against Amazon India between September 14 and October . Paytm Mall saw 765 complaints and Snapdeal saw over 400 in the same period.

Flipkart, however, claimed that the number stood at 1,125, of which 35% were queries. The figure is minuscule, considering that on a regular day, e-commerce shipments touch 1.2-1.3 million. However, many consumers also register complaints directly with the company or through and not necessarily through the helpline.

The growing number of complaints is also representative of the challenges of product returns and cancellations in the sector, which currently stands at 30% of the gross merchandise value, as per a recent report by Redseer.

According to an official, the count of complaints in the first 15 days of October stood at 4,700, and could increase based on the e-commerce sales that took place between October -16. Last October, the figure was 8,944. “One of the for the complaints to have shot up could be because Indian e-commerce is now witnessing a lot of first-time online shoppers,” said Anirudh Rastogi, founder of Ikigai Law.

“There could be a mismatch between their expectation and experience, leading to a spike in consumer complaints.”

The complaints in the sector are around deficiency in services, misleading advertisements, fake products and payment issues.

For example, earlier this week, a consumer disputes redressal forum reportedly directed Amazon India and its seller to pay Rs 5,000 as a fine for failing to refund the money after they sent a wrong Apple product to the complainant.

“Customers typically contact customer support to know their order status, promotions, finance options and bank offers and this volume increases during sale events. This festive , to provide a superior shopping experience and ensure faster resolution, Amazon.in has ramped up its customer service capacity by 2.5X,” an Amazon spokesperson said.

User complaints may spike 20% in season of e-commerce sales
ET had reported earlier this year that one-third of e-commerce customers receive counterfeit products, citing two surveys.

The Consumer Protection Bill 2018 and the draft e-commerce draft policy have also stressed upon the need for a consumer redressal mechanism to exist.

The government is also said to have suggested as part of formulating the draft e-commerce policy earlier this year, to direct e-commerce companies to integrate with National Consumer Helpline to address consumer issues.

ET had also reported earlier this year that e-commerce sector will see several significant changes under the Consumer Protection Act, which would make e-tailers and marketplaces liable for fraudulent sales and defective products sold on their platforms.



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