E-tailers Say Offline Peers Should Also Come Under Draft E-comm Policy

Brick-and-mortar retailers should be brought under the purview of draft e-commerce policy and they should stand same scrutiny as online marketplaces, e-commerce companies have argued in a meeting with the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) officials.

Attended by representatives of Amazon India, MakeMyTrip, Paytm, Snapdeal, Netflix and others, the industry executives have suggested to the government saying current draft should be split in two broad parts–commerce and data separately, people present in today’s meeting said.

Another key point raised by both domestic and foreign players is that the government can ask for user data only in the case of law enforcement with necessary approvals without which the draft policy could be abused. The government has also decided to extend the deadline for public feedback on draft e-commerce policy to end of March, instead of the original deadline of March 9.

This comes after the centre released its draft policy for e-commerce on February 23 which largely focused on consumer data and its storage by these companies. These changes were proposed after the FDI clarifications from the government were implemented last month. Industry stakeholders, both of foreign and domestic roots, have expressed the excessive focus on data storage and its usage in an e-commerce policy would lead to operational
complications. The word data is mentioned 250 times in the 41-page draft.

“E-commerce cannot be seen from the perspective of data-usage only. At the heart of it, e-commerce is about consumers, small businesses and convenience. We told the government to consider these before coming out with a final guideline,” an executive of an e-commerce company said. He added several of his peers also argued for a level-playing-field for offline retailers with regards to consumer data.

Over the last two years, localisation of data has been a common theme of government policies. These policies have largely attempted to restrict the flow of cross-border data. Among other changes, it gives the government more access to data and also calls for creating a “data authority” to share data for the public interest. India and its citizens have a sovereign right to their data, the draft policy has said, a clear indication of current thinking of policymakers.

“It (draft policy) has to be separated in two broad parts. Companies in the area of banking, telecom, retail trade also have tons of consumer data and anyone who handles consumer data should follow same rules,” said Sachin Taparia, founder of LocalCircles, who was representing homegrown startups to the government.

While domestic companies have largely stayed away from making comments on the draft policy, industry sources said the government’s data access proposal has them worried. “A request from Indian authorities to have access to all such data stored abroad shall be complied with immediately,” the draft has mentioned among other proposals. The industry executives also debated on online platforms selling counterfeit products.―Gadgets Now

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