ONDC Seeks Public Comment on its Draft Grievance Redress Framework

The Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) posted a grievance resolution document on its website on Friday for the public to respond by Oct. 31.

It comes on a day when it went live in some high density areas of Bengaluru.

The document states that Seller Apps must ensure that the product description is accurate and complete. They should also ensure that the terms and conditions of returns/refunds/cancellations are clearly stated.

Third, they must clearly specify the seller’s declared price (which cannot be higher than the maximum selling price), separate from any other charges such as convenience charges, packaging charges, etc. Fourth, performance terms such as delivery time and delivery charges should be clearly mentioned.

The document also states that if the seller had declared in advance that the product is not returnable, the return will not be processed unless the product is defective or damaged.

Even when a product is returnable, the seller may choose to issue a refund rather than initiate a return.

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Similarly, cancellations will only be processed if the seller has previously indicated that the order is cancellable.

The logistics of a return, according to the newspaper, will work the same as outbound logistics, but with the flow reversed.

The seller or seller app will place a logistics order for reverse pickup, if that was the commitment given in the return policy and the return was initiated within the return window.

ONDC addresses return, refund and cancellation issues primarily by mutual agreement between buyers and sellers.

The seller must disclose its terms regarding returns, refunds, and cancellations at the time it makes an offer to the buyer. This is a requirement under network policy, according to the document.

Additionally, the actual terms themselves are encoded in the contract at the transaction level.

“Allowing sellers to declare their terms and letting buyers transact with sellers whose terms they find acceptable is an inherently more balanced approach than a centralized entity dictating what the terms of sale should be,” the paper said.

This will allow for greater differentiation in the levels of service offered by different sellers and enable better price discovery, while giving buyers the flexibility to choose to deal with sellers who offer acceptable terms.

In addition, once the terms are set, a clear contractual commitment is created between the buyer and the seller, and between the participants in their interface network who facilitate the transaction.

Any violations may then become grounds for filing a complaint/dispute, and repeated violations may result in disciplinary action against the respective network participant, according to the newspaper.

Other than requiring parties to declare their terms in advance and imposing on all parties an obligation to honor their pre-declared commitments, the ONDC does not prescribe anything specific regarding how returns, refunds and cancellations must be processed.

This is in line with ONDC’s principle of being a facilitator and not a regulator, according to the newspaper.

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