Consumer rights & data to be part of new e-commerce policy: DPIIT secretary

He said that e-commerce is not just about foreign direct investment (FDI) in it; it covers a large spectrum of issues.

A new e-commerce policy that is being worked out will cover various crucial issues, ranging from data protection to consumer rights, and a regulator for the sector may be set up, if required, department for the promotion of industry and internal trade (DPIIT) secretary Guruprasad Mohapatra said on Friday.

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It will also cover areas, including the issue of counterfeit products sold via online platforms and packaging and rules of origin, Mohapatra told reporters.

Commenting on the broad spectrum that will be covered under the new e-commerce policy, Mohapatra said: “Who should be accountable for counterfeit products sold through an e-commerce company? Data is an important issue. The entire data issue will be governed by what actually the data law will be, which is before Parliament.” “That is why we are not in a hurry to finalise it (the policy)… So, whatever will be the final outcome of that data bill, it will apply to everybody who will deal with data.”

He said that e-commerce is not just about foreign direct investment (FDI) in it; it covers a large spectrum of issues.

In February 2019, the government had released a draft e-commerce policy that had provided for regulating cross-border data flows, setting up storage facilities locally and establishing a ‘data authority’ to devise a framework for sharing community data.

Asserting that the country and its citizens had a “sovereign right” over data, the policy had disallowed sensitive data collected and processed locally but stored abroad from being shared with foreign governments and businesses outside India or any such third party even with the consent of the customer.

The draft policy had also proposed to grant companies three years to set up storage. It also sought a review of the extant policy of exempting electronic transmission from customs duty “in the light of the changing digital economy and the increased role that additive manufacturing is expected to take”.

Subsequently, the government sought to revise the draft. FE had in December reported that, according to the new darft policy that is being firmed up, the government may set up an investigation body to “holistically inquire” into the violation of various laws by e-commerce entities and initiate action.

Any such move will likely spell trouble for players like Amazon and Flipkart that are often accused by brick-and-mortar players of resorting to predatory pricing by offering discounts clandestinely through the sellers on their platforms, in violation of the FDI rules. The e-commerce players, however, have denied the charges.

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