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E-commerce firms  discussions with consumer affairs ministry

E-commerce firms are pushing for another consultation with the consumer affairs ministry to understand in detail the proposed amendments to the Consumer Protection (E-commerce) Rules, 2020, which continue to result in confusion for the e-tailing industry.

This comes after a round of discussions between industry stakeholders and the consumer affairs ministry on 3 July.

E-commerce firms are tapping trade bodies to ask for a second round of consultations with the ministry, as they look to seek clarity before sending in their suggestions, two individuals aware of the discussions said.

Trade bodies, including the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci), the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham), and the US-India Business Council (USIBC) are putting together recommendations from the industry for submission before the proposed deadline.

The proposed amendments to e-commerce rules are expected to challenge the intermediary status granted to online marketplaces, by penalising them for loss caused to consumers by sellers listed on their platform. The new policy also requires marketplaces to suggest domestic alternatives to products listed on their platforms, going against the rules of a fair marketplace, the e-commerce industry contended.

E-commerce firms will also directly send their suggestions to the ministry, apart from participating in proposals with trade bodies, said one of the persons mentioned above requesting anonymity.

“Some players in the e-commerce industry through trade bodies are expected to write to the government asking for another consultation with the consumer affairs ministry, seeking a clause by clause explanation and asking for clarity on rules overlapping with other ministries and departments including the ministry of electronics and information technology and the department for promotion of industry and industrial trade,” said an individual seeking anonymity.

“There’s a high possibility of another industry-wide consultation to take place in the coming two weeks as firms continue to be unclear about the draft amendments,” said an e-commerce executive asking not to be named.

CII and Ficci spokespersons did not to comment. Flipkart, Amazon India, the Internet and Mobile Association of India, and the National Association of Software and Service Companies did not respond to Mint’s queries until the time of going to press.

E-commerce firms have been seeking clarity on the new definition of e-commerce proposed in the draft rules and the clause that prohibits “related parties” from selling on their respective marketplaces.

“If the government stops related parties from selling on online marketplaces, it is stalling the growth of these ‘Make in India’ products floated by several large retailers such as Reliance and Tata, leading to the loss of several livelihoods. It also takes choice away from consumers. As a result of overlaps in the foreign direct investment (FDI) policy, the definition of a marketplace is confusing,” said an e-commerce executive on condition of anonymity.

The government wasn’t articulate on the queries raised by industry stakeholders about the overlap of policies on Saturday, said another e-commerce executive.

“The intent of the government is in the right direction, but execution is the problem. It looks like different legislatures were borrowed from various ministries to make these draft rules, completely mixing up definitions of marketplaces with inventory-led or pure-play online commerce models. This will lead to further misinterpretation and lead to a new set of antitrust issues,” said the second e-commerce executive. Livemint

 

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