Analysis of consumer protection (direct selling) rules, 2021.
Adv. Sakshi Shairwal
The consumer affairs ministry on 30th June 2021 introduced new draft rules and proposed instruments to ensure that the direct sellers or agents make the organizations responsible to their consumers. This is interestingly such draft rules have been outlined, which indicate that these organizations will be banished from charging any passage or registration expense from agents. They can't charge for the expense of hardware and materials for deals shown by their representatives too.
Prior to 2016, the ministry had come out with a bunch of rules for the area, which were warning in nature. However, presently the proposed rules under the Consumer Protection Act will have legitimate support and infringement will draw in punishments.
As per the draft rules, each direct selling company doing business in India should be enrolled with the enterprise's division and should have at least one office in India. The enrollment number must be shown unmistakably on its site and all solicitations. They should have devoted officers to address grievances and agree with the public authority orders. Such elements will likewise have to have a 24x7 client care number to determine all issues.
The proposed rules determine that no direct selling company will be permitted to advance the 'Pyramid Scheme' and take an interest in the 'Money Circulation Scheme' in the attire of a business selling business. A pyramid scheme is a business model that initiates individuals through the guarantee of installments or administrations for selecting others into the scheme, rather than an offer of items or administrations. The draft rules said all organizations working the nation over should conform to the standards within 90 days.
As indicated by the proposed rules, an direct selling company would need to reclaim deceptive products or insufficient administrations and should discount the thought paid for labour and products given by it. It additionally recommends that the agents or dealer will have a "cooling-off period" during which he/she can change his mind about an arrangement made. This will not bring about a penetrate of agreement and additionally the duty of punishment. The draft rules likewise have an arrangement for a buyback or repurchase strategy for “currently marketable" products, which are not unloaded.
What are the draft rules on direct selling?
The draft rules noticed that the organizations working in the fragment would need to select a Chief Compliance Officer, a Grievance Redressal Officer, and a Nodal Contact Person. The organizations would likewise be enrolled with the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade and should have an office in India. They would likewise be ordered to keep a site with all the applicable data.
"Each direct selling company will set up a component for documenting of grumblings by the consumers through its workplaces, branches and direct sellers through an individual, post, phone, email, and site," says the draft.
It adds: "Each direct selling company will guarantee that such enlistment number is shown unmistakably to its anything but a reasonable and open way on its site and each receipt gave for every exchange." Also, such organizations would need to keep a record of direct sellers working with them, including their ID verification, address confirmation, email ID, and other contact data.
To manage the unapproved selling of items fabricated by direct selling organizations on internet business stages, the rules additionally recommend that the individual or commercial center selling the items on the web should have earlier composed assent from the direct selling element. It likewise guides the organizations to offer discounts to consumers for imperfect labour and products. The draft strategy makes reference to a course of events of 90 days for compliance with these standards.
Who are direct sellers?
Direct selling firms convey agents who purchase items from the organization and afterward straightforwardly connect and offer to the consumers at their homes or different places rather than a retail design like a store. The direct selling element and the agents share the benefits made through the offer of items. As indicated by industry gauges, there are around 60 lakh agents in the country, who seek after direct selling as intend to procure extra pay. The direct selling industry, according to gauges, is fixed at Rs 10,000 crore in India and has seen a 12-13 percent development rate over the most recent five years. Agents say items, for example, multi-nutrients, home consideration, and individual consideration are the top-selling classes through this channel. Organizations, for example, Amway, Avon, Oriflame, Modicare, and Tupperware work in the direct selling fragment.
What will new rules mean for consumers?
The new rules, whenever authorized, say agents, will profit the consumers as they will have an instrument set up to report their grievances. "Consumers will actually want to recognize certified organizations selling dependable merchandise if these rules come into place," said Rajat Tuli, Senior Principal, Retail and Consumer Practice, at counseling firm Kearney. Throughout the long term, consumers have been tricked by counterfeit sellers peddling off faulty items and administrations in the clothing of direct sellers. The draft rules, agents say, will likewise help them in documenting protests on the off chance that they are tricked.
Said Samir Modi, Founder, and Managing Director, of Modicare: "The rules will assist with separating certified direct sellers from pyramid schemes, which we feel is the outright need of great importance and won't permit organizations to spurn standards."
The effect on direct selling organizations, agents, and the industry at large
While gainful for the consumer, the proposed rules would likewise work for the industry as they would assist with imparting consumer confidence in the direct selling channel.
As indicated by Ankur Bisen, Senior Vice President, Retail and Consumer at the executive's consultancy Technopak, “the brands with some standing are now following a portion of these practices and henceforth these new rules will just assist with formalizing the industry”
The industry, as well, favors such rules as this will assist with making straightforwardness in the section. "For quite a while presently, the direct selling industry has borne the brunt of a couple of ruined apples and these unapproved and unlawful players who have procured an awful name for the whole area," said Deepak Chhabra, Managing Director, Tupperware India. "Steps like these will work for the interest of fair and moral direct selling players who have trudged energetically to clear the messiness and acquire straightforwardness," he added.
Chhabra additionally thinks that the new rules will stem the unapproved deals of their items on online business commercial centers, which has been difficult for the organizations over the most recent couple of years.
Firms, for example, Amway and Modicare guarantee that since they don't charge any enlistment expense to their representatives, the proposed rules won't affect them.
"There are no charges for joining Amway business. Further, to guarantee that the clients have a wonderful involvement in Amway, our items are supported by a money-back ensure for 100% fulfillment of utilization," said Anshu Budhraja, CEO, Amway India.
Industry experts, in any case, feel that a portion of these organizations would have to change their model as they boosted the onboarding of new agents by existing agents, which on occasion can be mistaken for pyramid schemes. Industry watchers are of the view that the expulsion of enrollment expenses would profit the industry everywhere as individuals are probably going to decide on direct selling, given that the venture would now be exceptionally low. "The organizations, be that as it may, will think that it's difficult to recognize the non-genuine sellers from the genuine sellers. Furthermore, likely arousing a lot of alleviation for direct selling agents, the new rules expect organizations and not the agents to take responsibility for flawed items.
Agents, in any case, are far-fetched whether the organizations would have the option to guarantee compliance in 90 days and it's anything but a further expansion. The partners additionally plan to move toward public authority with different ideas also. "A few provisos may require further conversation and we are searching for them to be tended to through industry bodies including IDSA and FICCI," said Modi of Modicare.
Hence the new consumer protection rules for direct selling entity is a great instrument for the direct seller and consumers, the new draft rules are introduced for the betterment of the direct selling industry in India and whenever the rules may come into force they would prominently bring positive changes in the direct selling industries.
The article first published on Lexology.com and the same can be accessed here.