Taking a customer-first approach, state governments on Wednesday asked the Centre to bring e-commerce under the Consumer Protection Act and the Competition Act. The views were expressed by state commerce ministers in a meeting with Union commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
In justification of their demand for the two Acts, states said under the Consumer Protection Act, packaging and labelling policies should be strictly followed by e-commerce players, along with maintaining the privacy of buyers’ personal details to prevent unnecessary harassments.
Sellers and marketplace operators should adhere to the prescribed format of declaring product details, including date of manufacturing, place of manufacturing, contact details of the manufacturer among others, instead of the current format of the company’s name on the delivery box.
“The Competition Act, which regulates predatory pricing and monopoly by companies and works for the welfare of consumers, also needs to be considered while preparing the regulations for e-commerce trade,” according to sources present in the meeting.
The Retailers Association Of India is contesting a writ petition demanding clarity and level-playing field in single brand, multi brand retail and e-commerce trade.
Definition of e-commerce, marketplace format, point of sales, and demand from states for a regulatory framework for e-commerce were some of the issues discussed during the meeting.
States also asked the Centre to consider keeping taxes at “the point of sales”.
Multi-brand retail also figured in the discussion, with states, including Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and others stressing on a level-
playing field in retail business, even if it meant allowing foreign investments, sources said. “A lot of states said that if FDI in e-commerce in business-to-business (B2B) is opened, then it virtually means opening up multi-brand retail. Since this is against the government’s current stand, there should be clarity on all fronts regarding e-commerce regulations,” sources added.
“All issues under retail were part of discussions. Multi brand retail was also discussed,” said Captain Abhimanyu, commerce minister of Haryana. “Tamil Nadu was not in favour of opening up of the sector. As far as we are concerned, we clearly said that retailers should be provided a level playing field but we also need to keep the interest of existing retailers who are in the ecosystem.”
States will now formally put in their responses in writing and send it to Centre in the next 15 days after discussions with their respective stakeholders and departments. The Centre will then again consider all the suggestions.
“State governments have been given a time for consultations and we feel this subject will take time,” said Chander Prakash, commerce minister, Jammu and Kashmir. We are likely to meet again in the coming months,” he added.