E-commerce and online business companies and websites in India are required to comply with certain techno legal requirements. Cyber law due diligence (pdf) is one such techno legal statutory requirements that very few e-commerce and online business companies are presently complying with. The general idea among online businesses and entrepreneurs is that legal compliances are not required to be taken seriously except when law enforcement agencies start investigating them for violation of Indian laws.
Matrimonial websites in India are on the forefront of non compliance with legal requirements as prescribed by the Information Technology Act, 2000. We at Perry4Law Organisation (P4LO) have analysed the top matrimonial websites of India and found that they are not complying with the techno legal requirements of Indian laws. Even Indian government is well aware of this situation and this is the reason why it has issued an advisory titled Advisory on Functioning of Matrimonial Websites in Accordance with The Information Technology Act, 2000 and Rules made thereunder (pdf).
Matrimonial websites were already required to ensure cyber law due diligence and the advisory has just clarified what has already been prescribed by the IT Act, 2000. However, with the issuance of the advisory, matrimonial websites in India would now be under constant and extensive legal scrutiny and the lack of techno legal compliances on their part would now be now a matter of legal non compliance.
The advisory has mentioned that there have been complaints of frauds and misuse of information uploaded on the matrimonial websites. There have been instances where users of matrimonial websites falsify about their marital status, age, height, personality, health, social and economic status. In most of the cases victims are women who fall prey to these fraudsters after getting introduced through fake profiles on matrimonial portal. Thus there is a need for strengthening protective measures for all users of such websites.
These matrimonial websites/portals function as intermediaries as defined under section 2 (1) (w) of the IT Act, 2000. As per section 2 (1) (w), an “intermediary” with respect to any particular electronic records, means any person who on behalf of another person receives, stores or transmits that record or provides any service with respect to that record. Accordingly, the matrimonial websites/portals are mandated to adhere to the provisions of the IT Act, 2000 and the Rules made thereunder including the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011, as notified by the Government on April 11, 2011 vide G.S.R. 314(E).
Now matrimonial websites would be required to ensure the following:
(a) User Agreement: A user agreement (Terms and Conditions) accepted by each user at the time of registration. The terms and conditions (T &C) and any other policy(ies)/ document(s) of these matrimonial websites shall be in line with The Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011, as notified on April 11, 2011 vide G.S.R. 314(E). In addition, T &C may also include statements like:
(i) Confirmation of user’s intent to enter into a matrimonial alliance and further,
(ii) Confirmation that the user information provided is correct to the best of his/her knowledge.
(c) User Verification: Matrimonial website shall strive to provide for user verification by registering his/her mobile number as a due diligence measure.
(d) Submission Of Identity Documents: The users may be strongly advised to submit / upload true copies of supporting documents such as proof of identity and address for the purpose of user authentication. It is advisable that the Matrimonial web sites should provide a list of such legally verifiable documents which can serve the purpose of proof of identity and address.
(e) Declaration: Service providers of the matrimonial websites should make declaration that the website is strictly for matrimonial purpose only and not a dating website and should not be used for posting any obscene material. The same should atleast be highlighted prominently on the website homepage.
(f) Data Protection Standards: Matrimonial websites should work towards achieving the National/International Standard(s) such as IS/ISOIIEC 27001 standards for data protection.
(g) Public Disclosures: The matrimonial websites should prominently display and also send regular communication to its users including but not limited to the following:
(i) Terms and conditions as agreed by user.
(ii) The statement that Matrimonial websites do not authenticate any information of any profile unless specifically stated and hence users need to verify the credentials and information provided by other users.
(iii) Cautioning users against possible fraudsters who ask for favours, money etc. and other possible misuses as known to or reported to the matrimonial websites.
(iv) Encouraging registered users to report any fraudulent activity to matrimonial website as well as to law enforcement agencies.
(v) Safety tips as appropriate.
(h) Grievance Officer: Matrimonial websites, being intermediaries, shall publish on its website the name of the Grievance Officer and his contact details along with complaint redressal mechanism as provided under Rule 3(11) of The Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011.
(i) FAQs: Matrimonial website service providers should develop a Frequently Ask Questions (FAQ) as a user friendly measure.
(j) Data Retention: Matrimonial Website should store the IP address of profile creation and access logs (date and time stamping) for a period of one year from the date of account deactivation.