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Tech Tips, Tricks & Trivia

by 'Anil' Radhakrishna
An architect's notes, experiments, discoveries and annotated bookmarks.

Search from over a hundred HOW TO articles, Tips and Tricks

Beware of the sneaky things Indian e-commerce sites do

With over a hundred million of India's billion plus population now online, e-commerce is booming. However, in the absence of an effective e-commerce regulator, online retailers have the upper hand.

In the pretext of online deals to grab the attention of bargain-hunters, breaches of trust and privacy are being committed. When a unwitting buyer signs up for a deal, the online retailer gets a life-long right to stuff your browser with evil cookies that will keep tracking you, spam by email and text messages. Unsubscribing from their marketing messages is deliberately made cumbersome. I wonder if online buyers in India have any well-defined rights & simple ways for redressal in case of genuine complaints. For instance, how long after a purchase can a customer's address & saved debit/credit card details stay in an online retailer's database? What happens to customers if that database is hacked and that causes financial damage to customers?

Based on my experiences & those of friends, here are some patterns to watch out for:

* Weasel wording -The most misused word that marketers of online shopping sites use is "up to". Look out for ambiguous wording in the description of offers and also if they pointedly tell you to read the terms and conditions.

Terms & Conditions is a giant list - Hidden deep down in the fine print would be terms like "First time users only", "Benefits applicable only when you transact from the app (& not from their websites)", "Get X% cashback up to Rs.100", "Offer valid every second transaction.","Winners will not be intimated individually nor will it be posted on the web". Be doubly careful if the T&C document has to be downloaded as a PDF.

Deals are serviced by a third-party - Outsourcing has many benefits. If something goes wrong, the third party can be blamed while the principal provider's reputation is unharmed.

Offer benefits that will be provided after a ridiculously long time - This is becoming a norm. After an inordinately long time you won't remember your purchase had some benefits and the online retailer will be happy to forget unless you ask for it (this scenario happened with me with an Amazon.in Gift Card promotional). Typically, no emails or any other intimation is sent when you stand eligible for an offer. A variation of this trick is to make you take an additional action before you are given an offer benefit (Mobikwik had a cash back offer which wasn't automatically credited but for which one had to click on a link sent in a text message)

Know of other sleazy tricks that Indian online retailers play? Please leave a comment below.

Sadly, you can probably never benefit from any online shopping deal in India if you heed the above suggestions.

US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations state that, for an advertised offer to be lawful, the terms of the offer must be clear and conspicuous, not relegated to fine print. On similar lines, India urgently needs a strong e-commerce watchdog.

Related: Indian e-commerce sites that levy "convenience" fees or transaction charges on card payments


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