New Russian regulations introduce specific rules for platforms that aggregate information from online stores, and provide additional protection for consumers acquiring goods and services through such platforms.
On 29 July the Russian president signed Federal Law No. 250-FZ, On Amendments to the Law of the Russian Federation on Protection of Consumers’ Rights. The law applies to the owners of businesses that aggregate information relating to goods or services, and imposes certain obligations and liability on such owners in connection with consumer use of their platforms. The law comes into effect on 1 January 2019.
Under the law, an “owner of an aggregator of information relating to goods or services” (referred to herein as an ecommerce aggregator) is an entity or individual registered as an entrepreneur that owns a website, webpage, or software and provides consumers with an opportunity to do all of the following things at once:
Owners or platforms that provide some but not all of the above functionality (e.g., no online prepayment to the owner of the platform) do not qualify as ecommerce aggregators and are not subject to the new regulations.
Ecommerce aggregators must disclose accurate information about themselves and their suppliers, including name, address, registration details, office hours, and other information, and keep this information up to date. Alternatively, ecommerce aggregators can post a link to the relevant supplier’s website.
If an ecommerce aggregator fails to provide required information or provides inaccurate information, it may be liable to the consumer for damages. This does not apply, however, if the ecommerce aggregator has relied on the information provided by the supplier and has not modified it.
An ecommerce aggregator must refund the prepayment received from the consumer if the supplier has not provided goods or services to the consumer on time, provided that the consumer has terminated its contract with the supplier by written notice.
Importantly, the law provides that ecommerce aggregators are not liable for performance of the purchase contract by the supplier or for the quality of goods or services provided by the supplier, unless otherwise agreed between the ecommerce aggregator and the supplier.
The new regulations may affect many ecommerce platforms in retail, tourism, food delivery, and other services operated by Russian entities. Arguably, the rules may also apply to e-platforms operated by foreign companies, if such platforms target Russian customers and meet the criteria for ecommerce aggregators.
Further, as a general practical consideration, both ecommerce aggregators and online vendors should review and update their existing contracts. For instance, it may be helpful for ecommerce aggregators to expressly require suppliers to provide accurate information.