The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (hereinafter, referred to as ‘MeitY’) recently announced its “Guidelines for Online Gaming” to realize its aim of creating an “Open, Safe and Trusted and Accountable Internet” for internet users in India. To achieve this aim, the guidelines emphasize the need for Fantasy Sports platforms to have in place a grievance redressal mechanism.
The requirement for this was most recently put out by the MeitY in the draft amendments to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 (hereinafter, referred to as the “Amendment Rules”). Insertion of Section 4A to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 (hereinafter, referred to as the “Rules”) has been provided for in the draft amendments which provides additional due diligence requirements to be followed by online gaming platforms. The definition of ‘online game’ in s. 2(qa) of the Rules include fantasy sports. Therefore, these requirements will necessarily have to be followed by Online Fantasy Sports Platforms (OFSP).
Specific obligation has been created by the Amendment Rules upon the online gaming, or fantasy sports industry (for our purposes) that requires them to set up a grievance redressal mechanism and resolve the complaints filed on their system within 72 hours of the institution of the complaint. Since the fantasy sports industry is heavily unregularized thus far in India, measures of the government towards regulating the industry in pursuance of creating a safer online space for internet users in India only legitimize this arena. Further, it opens up an avenue of opportunity for players such as WebNyay who strive to increase access to the delivery of justice by providing an Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) ecosystem to help increase trust in the business of fantasy sports.
Integration of ODR and OFSP
One particular way in which this could be achieved is by integrating the services of an ODR provider within the native ecosystem (apps, web, etc.) of the OFSP. E-commerce giant E-bay has been pioneering the ODR revolution since 1997 and to good reception as well. In fact, a study into eBay’s ODR offerings has shown that regardless of whether a complainant wins or loses on the ODR platform, the inclusion and use of such a mechanism by a company increases trust in their services and witnesses returning customers, even losing one. Thus, integration of the services of an ODR ecosystem by an OFSP could benefit their business, the ODR revolution and consequently, the economy.
Role of FIFS
A large majority of OFSP providers are members of the self-governing body Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS). FIFS attempts to regulate and augment the business of fantasy sports in India. The grievance redressal mechanism is one of the requirements they set out for their members to meet. The Rajasthan High Court has also commended the work being done by FIFS in implementing the grievance redressal mechanism by OFSP providers. As per their Ombudsman Rules, the FIFS appoints an Ombudsman (a retired Supreme Court or High Court judge) who has the power to look into any complaint that has been filed against an OFSP provider with regards to issues such as non-payment of winnings, delay in payment of winnings, among others.
While 99% of OFSP providers are members of the FIFS, the Ombudsman Rules do not provide grievance redressal guidelines which are as robust as what the Amendment Rules impose. For instance, as compared to the 72-hour requirement of an OFSP to resolve a dispute u/s. 4A of the Rules after the Amendment Rules are notified, the Ombudsman Rules provide at least a 30-day hiatus (3 months in certain peculiar cases) before the Ombudsman can be approached. Moreover, appeals from the Grievance Officer are made to the Grievance Appellate Committee, where an attempt is made to resolve the dispute within the next 30-day period. The 30-day timeline may be ambitious at present as early evidence suggests a more liberal timeline of 45-60 days is usually required to resolve a dispute through ODR.
Regardless of the efficacy of the Ombudsman Rules, since they are a self-governing body, they would always be adaptable and flexible to enforce newer measures which the Rules do not yet bring within their realm. This institutional development of OFSP with FIFS as its self-governing body promises an opportunity for technological advancements to set up an even more robust grievance redressal mechanism with time for the betterment of the end-user. This development is encouraging ODR platforms to attempt research and development of tools to better the dispute resolution experience of a complainant.
The increased need felt to regulate the grievance redressal mechanism in the specific business of OFSP is a testament to the fact that legitimacy is on the horizon for OFSP providers. As the likelier possibility is that they are here to stay, ODR platforms should embrace their increased popularity as they will continue to produce work till the grievance redressal mechanism is perfected. Similarly, different industries would pose a different set of challenges and this could even lead to the onslaught of industry-specific ODR platforms in the future.
 Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules 2022, s 2
 Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules 2022, s 4 r/w Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, s 3(2)
 Dalberg, ‘Online Dispute Resolution: Shifting from disputes to resolution,’ (ODR, 14 April 2021) <www.disputeresolution.online> accessed 9 February 2023 p 31
 Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports, Ombudsman Rules 2020, Rule 1.3.1
 Ravindra Singh Chaudhary v Union of India (2020) 4 RLW 3322
 ibid (n 4), Rules 1.2, 1.3
 ibid, Rule 1.4.4
 ibid, Rule 1.4.3
 Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, s 3A(4)
 ibid (n 3), p 66