The 23rd edition of the Spotlight focuses on the grievance redressal framework prescribed for online gaming in the IT rules, 2021 notified by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) on 6th April 2023.
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Gaming is fun! But it also needs to address Consumer Grievances
Under Section 87 of the Information Technology Act, 2000, the Government of India has notified the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 (IT Rules). They provide for self-regulation and due diligence by the social media intermediaries. On April 06, 2023, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) notified a regulatory framework for online gaming through IT rules amendments. Among other things, these amendments provide for a multi-tier grievance redressal mechanism, which casts obligations on online gaming intermediaries and self-regulatory bodies for online gaming to formulate grievance redressal machinery based on the framework provided by the IT Rules.
Obligations on Online Gaming Intermediaries (OGIs)
Grievance Appellate Committee (GAC)
- A grievance redressal mechanism
- A resident grievance officer and publication of its details, including contact details
- A system to confirm receipt of complaints from the user or any person on its behalf and a mechanism for its tracking, along with a unique ticket number for every complaint
- Acknowledgement of complaints within 24 hours and resolution within 15 days (72 hours in some cases, such as removal of information or communication link related to an online game not verified as a permissible online game)
- OGIs offering real money games must inform the users about policy changes within 24 hours of the modification taking effect
- Intermediaries other than OGIs must ensure that users are regularly updated with new policies at least once a year
The IT Rules also mention additional diligence to be observed by the OGIs offering 'real money games.’ Users can file a complaint in case of any non-compliance by OGIs with the following obligations:
- The aggrieved person, if not satisfied with the decision of the grievance officer of an OGI, can appeal to GAC within 30 days following the date of receiving the communication from the grievance officer
- GACs are required to resolve the grievance within 30 days of receiving the appeal
- GACs must establish an online dispute resolution method to perform the appeals process digitally
While the IT Rules provide a framework for grievance redressal by gaming intermediaries, there is considerable scope for improvement.
- OGIs do not finance consumers’ platform use directly or through a third party
- Before taking deposits from users, OGIs must follow KYC regulations set forth by the RBI and confirm users’ identities
- OGIs need to provide consumers with information on its KYC process, self-regulatory body (SRB) framework for approving online real money games, deposit/withdrawal/refund policies, and methods for deposit security
- Enabling consumers to approach any grievance redress mechanism, including consumer forums, to redress complaints in the online gaming sector
- Supporting consumer organisations to generate awareness about the grievance redress mechanism provided under the IT Rules and enable them to assist consumers in getting complaints resolved
- Enabling provisions for compensation to consumers in case of unfair loss to them or unfair gain to other parties
- Ensuring proportionality of penalties considering factors loss and gains, repetitive nature of the default, and commitments made by OGIs, among others
Note: For more details, please refer to ‘CUTS Comments on the Draft Amendments to The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 relating to Online Gaming’ submitted to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), available here: https://cuts-ccier.org/pdf/comments-to-meity-for-amendments-to-it-rules-2021.pdf