E-commerce platforms will need to voluntarily disclose paid customer reviews of products and services as part of the Bureau of Indian Standards norms that will be implemented from November 25, the Union government said, according to PTI.

Rohit Kumar Singh, the secretary of the Department of Consumer Affairs, has said that regulations are aimed at protecting consumers from “fake and deceptive reviews”.

The official said that reviews should not be misleading, and the identities of the reviewers should not be disclosed without their permission. “If a review is purchased or you are rewarding the person for writing the review, then that has to be clearly marked that as a purchased review,” he said.

The standard, IS 19000:2022, will apply to all organisations that publish consumer reviews online. These will include suppliers of products and services which collect reviews from their customers, third parties contracted by suppliers or independent third parties.

“We are probably the first country in the world to formulate a standard for online reviews,” Singh said.

The official said that the government will frame a conformity assessment scheme for the standard within 15 days. E-commerce platforms can apply to the Bureau of Indian Standards for the certification, he added.

The consumer affairs secretary said that the government will first set up a mechanism for voluntary compliance, and will make it mandatory “if the menace continues to grow”, The Hindu reported.

“Reviews posted online play a significant role in making purchase decisions and consumers exceedingly rely on reviews posted on e-commerce platforms to see the opinion and experience of users who have already purchased the good or service,” a press release by the government said.

It added, “Given that e-commerce involves a virtual shopping experience without any opportunity to physically view or examine the product, it is essential that reviews are genuine, authentic and trustworthy.”