Back to top

Fortifying your E-Commerce Vendor Program: A Guide to Legal Safeguards

Last revision:
Last revision: August 1, 2023

In today's world, where there are many e-commerce businesses, it is crucial to think about legal matters to make sure everything is within the law and that the platform operates smoothly. This guide gives an overview of important legal protections that can strengthen your platform, specifically when working with vendors who sell their goods and services on your platform.

What is an E-commerce Business?

An e-commerce business provides a digital platform for buying and selling various products and services. It eliminates the need for customers to visit physical stores as they can conveniently shop from their homes using their computers or smartphones. This virtual marketplace offers a wide range of items such as clothing, gadgets, and even digital services like online courses and food delivery. In India, some of the most popular e-commerce platforms include Amazon (offering a diverse range of products), Swiggy (specializing in food delivery), and Vedantu (providing online courses). With e-commerce businesses, customers can easily find and purchase items without leaving their homes.

Draft Comprehensive Vendor Agreement

It is important to have a clear and comprehensive vendor agreement outlining the terms and conditions of listing and selling products or services on the e-commerce platform. The vendor agreement should cover the following aspects:

  • Product Details: Clearly define the specification, quality standards, and any applicable certifications or regulatory approvals required for the products to be listed on the e-commerce platform.
  • Pricing and Payment Terms: Specify the pricing structure and payment methods. Ensure transparency in pricing, commission, etc. to avoid disputes related to hidden charges.
  • Delivery and Return Policies: Outline the delivery timelines, shipping costs, and return policies to manage customer expectations and handle returns effectively. If required, a separate detailed shipping policy can be used.
  • Dispute Resolution: Include a clear dispute resolution mechanism, such as arbitration or mediation, to address conflicts between your e-commerce platform and vendors. If you have already entered into an agreement with the vendor, you can use a separate arbitration agreement to incorporate arbitration as a dispute resolution mechanism.
  • Termination Clause: Establish conditions under which either party can terminate the vendor agreement, along with the consequences of termination.

Compliance with E-commerce Regulations

You need to ensure that your e-commerce platform and the product and services, listed on your e-commerce platform are in compliance with applicable laws in India including Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020, Consumer Protection Act, 2019, Information Technology Act, 2000, etc.

General Compliance

It is important to disclose essential product information, including expiry dates, manufacturer details, and any associated guarantees, or warranties.

Also, establish a dedicated grievance redressal mechanism to promptly address customer complaints and concerns, including a chatbot, dedicated call centre, active email dedicated to customer support, etc. Under the new Consumer Protection Act, of 2019, even the e-commerce platforms are liable for any defects or deficiencies in products or services sold to the customer through the platform.

As a responsible platform owner, it is crucial for you to conduct regular monitoring and checks to ensure that the platform is free from any forms of misleading advertising, unfair pricing, or other practices that could potentially harm consumers.

Data Protection and Privacy

Protecting personal data and other data stored and processed on the e-commerce platform is critical. Compliance with the Information Technology (Reasonable Security Practices and Procedures and Sensitive Personal Data or Information) Rules, 2011. You can implement the following data protection measures:

  • Data Security: You need to implement robust security measures to safeguard user data from unauthorized access or data breaches.
  • Consent Mechanism: Seek explicit consent from users before collecting and processing their personal information. You can use the "I Agree" button or other online mechanisms for this.
  • Privacy Policy: Have a clear and easily accessible privacy policy that informs users about the types of data collected, the purpose of data processing and data sharing practices.

Intellectual Property Protection

You need to encourage all your vendors to respect intellectual property rights and ensure that their products do not infringe on the rights of others. Since the products or services will be publicly listed on your platform, it is better to encourage the vendors to register their trademarks before listing them on the platform. A trademark is a unique symbol, logo, or name that helps identify a product or service and sets it apart from others.

It is important to implement a system to detect and prevent the listing of products that violate copyrighted works or products. Copyright is a legal protection that gives the creator, an artist, exclusive right to decide who can use or reproduce their works.

Also, ensure that vendors do not sell products that infringe on existing patents. A patent is a legal right granted to inventors, which allows them to protect their inventions from being used, made, or sold by others without their invention. Example a unique water testing device.

You can implement measures to detect and prevent the sale of counterfeit or infringing products on your platform. A counterfeit or infringing product is an unauthorized imitation or replica of a genuine product, which violates the intellectual property rights of the original manufacturer or creator.

You need to regularly audit product listings and respond promptly to complaints from intellectual property rights holders. A strong anti-counterfeiting policy in your vendor agreement and website terms and conditions will protect the reputation of your platform and maintain trust among customers and vendors.

Taxation and GST Compliance

You need to understand the applicable tax implications for your e-commerce. You may need to register for Goods and Services Tax (GST) if your annual turnover exceeds the threshold limit. It is better to check the GST rules and regulations to check whether you need to register or not. If you are defined as an Aggregator under the GST law, you are required to register, regardless of your turnover. Sometimes, you may need to comply with TCS (Tax Collection at Source) provisions if applicable, under this you need to collect tax at a specific rate before making payments to vendors.

Affiliate Marketing and Advertising

If your platform engages in affiliate marketing or displays third-party advertisements, establish clear policies to regulate these activities including a robust, Affiliate Agreement. You need to ensure that the advertisements comply with relevant laws and do not mislead the users. It is better to avoid partnerships with disreputable advertisers or those selling counterfeit products.

Vendor Compliance Verification

Before onboarding or signing up potential vendors into your platform, it is essential to conduct thorough due diligence. This involves verifying their legal status (e.g. legally incorporated or registered), business licenses (e.g. FSSAI license) and adherence to local laws including health clearance, employment registration, etc. Implementing a monitoring system will help you track their activities and ensure continuous compliance.

Always cross-check the authenticity of vendor documents, like business registration certificates, tax registration, and identity proofs issued by the government, to avoid any fraudulent engagements. It is better to check their legal compliances including GST filing, ITR filing, and other recurring compliance to avoid any legal disputes in future.


In order to foster a sense of trust and confidence among vendors, customers, and other key stakeholders, it is absolutely essential that your e-commerce platform takes the necessary steps to ensure the safety and security of all parties involved. This means staying up to date with the latest laws and regulations in India and regularly reviewing and adhering to all applicable guidelines to avoid costly penalties and legal complications. By taking proactive measures to protect the interests of all involved, you can help foster a more positive and productive atmosphere for everyone involved in your e-commerce platform.

Templates and examples to download in Word and PDF formats

Rate this guide