Govt may relax registration rules for e-commerce players, traders unhappy | Mint

Govt may relax registration rules for e-commerce players, traders unhappy

The players registered with ONDC include Zomato, Swiggy, Ola, Paytm, India Post, etc. (Photo: Mint)
The players registered with ONDC include Zomato, Swiggy, Ola, Paytm, India Post, etc. (Photo: Mint)

Summary

  • The earlier thinking within the government was to make it compulsory to position ONDC as a one-stop service providing network.

New Delhi: The government may not make it mandatory for online business firms to register on Open Network Digital Commerce (ONDC) in the proposed new e-commerce policy, two officials privy to the information said, in an easing of rules that could benefit the big players.

Instead, it is likely to propose voluntary registration. This would mark a relaxation from the earlier thinking and comes after a final round of consultations with stakeholders in early August, one of the officials said.

Besides, the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT)—an arm of the commerce and industry ministry—may not make it compulsory for online portals to share their ‘buyer and seller’ database with the ministry’s service facilitator ONDC, this official said, adding that the policy is ready to be released soon.

The earlier thinking within the government was to make it compulsory to position ONDC as a one-stop service providing network.

The ONDC was formed in 2022 to make the state-run application programming interface (API) a popular format among domestic sellers and buyers as the government’s service facilitator allows all types of business entities to get on board by paying a nominal subscription fee.

However, with the new policy expected to address complaints against unfair trade practices such as predatory pricing, flash sales, etc. “the e-commerce entities will have to comply with the Digital Personal Data Protection (DPDP) Act," the other official said.

In the proposed legislation, the government has already relaxed mandatory provisions for setting up an independent regulator for online retail platforms. Opinion is divided on any moves toward easing the rules.

“Registration of e-commerce players on ONDC should be made mandatory, otherwise the whole purpose of bringing a revamped policy to regulate online players will become futile," a person from the industry said on the condition of anonymity.

The tweak in the proposed policy would prove a windfall for major e-commerce players like Amazon, Flipkart and Reliance, because they have a huge seller repository.

Domestic traders’ body leader Praveen Khandelwal said that apart from ONDC registration, there should be compulsory registration of all online players with DPIIT and a separate regulatory body to keep online frauds under check. The players registered with ONDC include, Zomato, Swiggy, Ola, Paytm, India Post, etc.

A person privy to the e-commerce policy discussion confirmed, “It’s true that the conversation regarding dropping of registration clauses is happening, but it’s at the government level only. Private players are not part of those deliberations." Queries sent to the commerce ministry and ONDC remained unanswered at press time.

The issue comes against the backdrop of frequent run-ins between e-commerce majors and small traders. More than 12 million sellers earn their livelihood by selling or reselling products and services. However, only 15,000 of them—less than 1% of the total—are in e-commerce. The online business is still out of reach for the majority of sellers, especially from small towns and rural areas.

ONDC is neither an application nor a software—it is a network for digital commerce with a mandate to bring all channel partners onto a single network. It is present in about 600 cities and has 80 service providers registered with it.

 

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