New Delhi- The grievance redressal mechanism of many big e-commerce players is not up to the mark as the number of complaints received by the National Consumer Helpline has risen sharply over the last four years, Consumer Affairs Secretary Rohit Kumar Singh said on Thursday.

Addressing an event organised by the Public Affairs Forum of India (PAFI), Singh said the number of complaints registered on the National Consumer Helpline (NCH) has gone up to 90,000 in November compared to 40,000 in the same month last year.

“Four years back, the number of complaints pertaining to e-commerce transactions was 8 per cent of the total complaints. Last month, it was 48 per cent of the total complaints,” he said.

“That means that grievance redressal system of many of the big e-commerce companies is not working up to the mark,” he added.

Singh noted that the power equation between the consumer and seller has suddenly changed. “Consumer is getting weaker and weaker, that’s where the role of this ministry becomes important,” he added.

The Secretary shared that in his various interactions with corporates across the sector, including edutech, cab aggregators, food delivery platforms, online gaming platforms and e-commerce companies, he has conveyed that they cannot “take consumers for a ride.” The corporates have been asked to self-regulate, he added.

The NCH provides services in 10 languages at present, which will increase to 22 in the future, he said.

Singh, however, acknowledged that the regulation and enforcement framework has not kept pace with the advancements of the economy.

Talking about other initiatives of the ministry, the Secretary said the government will soon come out with guidelines for social media influencers, making it mandatory for them to disclose if they have taken money to endorse products.

He also said the consumer interest watchdog CCPA is investigating complaints relating to pricing by cab aggregators like Ola and Uber.

Expressing concern over 5.27 lakh cases pending in consumer courts at district, state and national levels, Singh said the government is making efforts to address this problem.

Out of the total pending cases, 1.8 lakh pertain to the insurance sector and another 80,000 cases relate to banking, he added.

Singh said there are some “systematic issues” and that have been referred to sector-specific ministries concerned.

On misleading advertisements, he said, “We have now developed a framework for social influencers which will be released soon. They have to disclose if they have taken money to endorse the product.” On the Legal Metrology Act, Singh said more reforms are needed and sought suggestions from the industry. He also said recently the Cabinet has approved a bill which will decriminalise certain provisions under the Act.

The government is also developing standards on artificial intelligence and sustainable packaging.


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Budget 2023: Widen Tax Base, Do Away With Cess, Surcharges, Say Experts
Press Trust Of India
New Delhi: Widening of the tax base, doing away with cess and surcharge, improvement in compliance and moderation in tax for emerging sectors are some of the suggestions submitted to the Finance Ministry ahead of the Budget by Think Change Forum (TCF).
Experts are of the opinion that there is a need to grow tax revenues for the government to drive economic growth and make investments in developmental activities, TCF, the think tank said in a statement.

Towards this end, poor compliance was identified as a weak link in achieving targeted collections leading to complex issues like overtaxing, complicated tax structures, rising litigation, among others.

Experts during the deliberation stressed on better compliance processes to be put in place backed by technological support which in turn will enable tax widening and need for strategies to strengthen tax collections from Tier 2 towns and cities to widen the tax net.

Participating in the debate, former chairman of Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) PC Jha said “enforcement agencies are working hard to check the illicit trade, but tax evaders are ahead of curve and using innovative techniques to smuggle goods into our country. There is a need to deploy modern technology, install more scanners at ports and use artificial intelligence to address the counterfeiting issue.” “Goods with higher profit margins like gold, tobacco and alcohol which are highly taxed, lead to tax evasion and smuggling.

As per a recent study, the estimated tax loss to the government in two highly regulated and taxed industries, tobacco products, and alcoholic beverages is over ₹ 28,500 crore, he said.

Capacity enhancement programmes of enforcement agencies and the use of cutting-edge technologies will certainly create a sense of fear amongst those who wish to indulge in smuggling and tax evasion activities and curb the illicit trade, he added.

According to Sanjaya Baru, former media adviser to Manmohan Singh and Advisor, Think Change Forum, a large section of individuals escapes and avoids taxes without being punished for it.

“In India only a small percentage pays taxes. If we compare our Tax GDP ratio with other rapidly developing economies it is below par. We also need to leverage technology to cast the net wider and increase compliance. Predictibality in the taxation system is equally important to ensure compliance,” Baru said.

Moreover, Swapan Sarkar, Owner, Sarkar and Associates said, Income Tax in India has several components other than the tax rate such as surcharge and cess.

“This is paid by individuals as well as corporates on top of tax paid on earned income. This increases the total tax payout which can go as high as 42 per cent in the case of individuals as the surcharge on individual taxation is around 10 to 35 per cent,” Swapan Sarkar said.

He demanded that the Government should completely do away with cess and surcharge as it is responsible for an overall increase in direct tax payout and disturbs the federal structure of the country as well.  (PTI)


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