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National e-commerce policy undergoing inter-ministerial consultation

Last month, the consumer affairs ministry released the draft consumer protection rules for public consultation. (Photo: iStock)Premium
Last month, the consumer affairs ministry released the draft consumer protection rules for public consultation. (Photo: iStock)

  • In July 2020, the Centre had notified rules for e-commerce firms as part of its consumer protection regulation, forcing e-tailers to display details on return, refund, exchange, warranty and guarantee, modes of payment, and grievance redressal mechanism, as well as the country of origin

NEW DELHI: The Union government has prepared a draft national e-commerce policy and circulated it for inter-ministerial consultation, the commerce ministry informed Parliament on Friday.

"A draft of National e-Commerce policy has been prepared after detailed public consultations. Valuable suggestions have been received from many stakeholders. Inter-ministerial consultations are being held to finalise the National e-Commerce Policy," minister of state in the commerce and industry ministry Som Parkash said in Rajya sabha replying to a question.

In February, then industry secretary late Guruprasad Mohapatra had said the commerce ministry was not in a hurry to bring out the e-commerce policy and may wait for Parliament to pass the Personal Data Protection Bill first.

"E-commerce has many features. One is of course the data part. The entire data issue is governed by ultimately what the data Act will be, which is before Parliament. That is why we are not in a hurry to finalize it. A lot of stakeholder consultation is taking place. That is why it is taking some time. However, we are working on it," Mohapatra had said.

The expert panel under former Supreme Court Judge B.N. Srikrishna, which was constituted to formulate the draft Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018, had recommended setting up of a data protection authority and placing restrictions on cross-border data flow.

The Union Cabinet in December gave its approval to the Bill that seeks to lay down a legal framework to preserve the sanctity of consent in data sharing and penalise those breaching privacy norms. It was then referred to a parliamentary committee. The panel is reported to have recommended 89 amendments to the proposed legislation.

In July last year, the Centre had notified rules for e-commerce firms as part of its consumer protection regulation, forcing e-tailers to display details on return, refund, exchange, warranty and guarantee, modes of payment, and grievance redressal mechanism, as well as the country of origin.

Last month, the consumer affairs ministry, which also comes under trade minister Piyush Goyal, released the draft consumer protection rules for public consultation. The proposed regulations seek to bring changes to how e-commerce marketplaces, including Amazon and Flipkart, operate after small businesses complained that they misuse market dominance and deep-discounting to gain an unfair advantage.

The rules propose to limit so-called ‘flash sales’ of goods and services by e-commerce companies by banning back-to-back sales that limit customer choice, increase prices and do not provide a level playing field.

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