National e- commerce policy awaited

The government has asked e-retail companies to submit their concerns pertaining to the draft e-commerce policy of the government. The issue was discussed during a meeting between the minister and representatives of e-commerce and technology industry. E-commerce industry representatives had flagged their concerns about the draft policy, which they felt was not adequately consultative.

Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal assured the e-commerce industry representatives that each and every concern of the industry will be addressed and for that the minister requested representatives to send their concerns in writing to the DPIIT. Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) is an arm of the ministry which deals with the issue. All the companies also raised concerns related to the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) data storage requirements and processing related guidelines. On this, Deputy Governor of RBI B P Kanungo, assured the industry to look into the issues.

Ajay Prakash Sawhney, Secretary, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) assured e-commerce companies that the Data Protection Bill will reflect all the consultations that had taken place with the industry during the formulation of the bill. Industry representatives have requested the minister to ensure that the bill will have more clarity around classification of data and the manner of cross border flow of data. The minister assured that MeitY will address this concern too. MeitY and National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) may deal with the concerns of companies that build products in India and store their data in the country.

The meeting holds significance as the ministry is in the process of finalizing a national e-commerce policy. Multi-national firms have raised concerns over certain provisions of the draft policy. The draft national e-commerce policy has proposed setting up a legal and technological framework for restrictions on cross-border data flow and also laid out conditions for businesses regarding collection or processing of sensitive data locally and storing it abroad.

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) plans to conduct a market study on e-commerce in India, with the initial findings expected to come out by August. In view of the rapid growth of e-commerce and the rising importance of online trade in a large number of goods and services in India, the study will allow the CCI to develop a better understanding of the functioning of e-commerce in the country and its implications for markets and competition. Preliminary findings of this study will be presented at a workshop, scheduled to be held at the end of August. All relevant stakeholders will be invited to share their views and deliberate on identified issues at this workshop. The final study report is expected to be published in 3Q of 2019-20 (October-December).

The objective of the research is to study market trends with focus on emerging distribution methods and strategies in response to e-commerce. The CCI aims to understand the business practices and contractual provisions in e-commerce, their underlying rationale and implications for competition. Another important objective is to identify impediments to competition, if any, relating to e-commerce and to ascertain enforcement and advocacy priorities for the CCI in e-commerce.

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