New E-comm Policy: Push For Level Of Offline And Online Players

With the aim of creating a level playing field between offline and online players across sectors, the ministry of electronics and IT (Meity) has said the new e-commerce policy, which is in the works, should just put in place some general provisions regarding online commerce and not get into redefining separate guidelines for them in different sectors, which might be in conflict with the existing provisions in a sector for offline players.

Sources told FE that Meity, in its submission to the department for promotion of industry and internal trade (DPIIT), which is formulating the policy, has emphasized that whatever is the rule for brick and mortar players in a given sector should also be applicable to online players in that segment. “There should be general provisions in the e-commerce policy and the sectoral guidelines should be applicable. This means if a player is selling medicines online, then similar treatment should be made to the online player as well as brick and mortar medical stores. Similarly, the rules which apply to entertainment players in the TV space should also apply to over-the-top players (OTTs),” said a source in the ministry.

Simply put, if the recommendations by Meity are incorporated in the final policy, then OTTs like Netflix and Amazon Prime will fall under the purview of the information and broadcasting ministry.

Similarly, online pharmacy firms like Netmeds will be regulated by the pharma regulator. The government had on February 23 released a new draft e-commerce policy that provided for regulating cross-border data flows, setting up storage facilities locally and establishing a data authority to devise a framework for sharing data. However, as the new policy has included services along with products as part of e-commerce, there has been some confusion around the impact on OTT platforms that sell content, medicines, riding services, etc.

The DPIIT is currently examining the views of the various stakeholders. Apart from the companies, various government departments have also sent in their comments, the last date for which was March 29.

As the online players also come under the intermediary guidelines as per the Information Technology Act, Meity feels that e-commerce policy can’t be the only governing document for online players.―Financial Express

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