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Indian flag law part of compliance drill, Amazon India tells govt

Amazon India tells government checks in place to prevent misuse of Indian flag, icons, emblems

business Updated: Feb 06, 2017 10:26 IST
Jayanth Jacob
Jayanth Jacob
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Amazon India,Indian flag,doormat
Amazon’s United States arm sells shoes and shoe lace metal hoops bearing a likeness to the Indian tricolour. (Picture courtesy: Screengrab)

Amazon has carried out an audit of all its products and made the Indian law against misuse of national flag and icons part of its global compliance regime, the US-based online retailer has told the government.

The e-commerce giant, said sources, was responding to India’s strong protest against Amazon Canadian selling doormats depicting the Indian flag and its US website putting on sale flip flops with Mahatma Gandhi’s face printed on them.

The company, which operates in 26 countries, had withdrawn the products in January within days of India lodging its protest.

Amazon is betting big on India and has committed to investing $5 billion in the world’s fastest growing internet services market.

Responding to complaints from some Indian nationals abroad, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj had in January threatened to withdraw visas to Amazon officials if the firm failed to take the offensive items off its sites.

Indian missions in Washington and Ottawa raised the issue with the senior leadership in Amazon, including chairman and CEO Jeff Bezos, sources said.

Read | Amazon’s national flag doormat is not worth Sushma Swaraj’s Twitter ire

Subsequently, Amazon told the Indian government that it carried out a “global audit” to ensure that such products were not listed on its websites.

The online retailer has also put in place additional checks in its software to ensure that third-party vendors while listing products “reveal detailed information on the products”. Any product information not in compliance with Amazon’s requirements would be automatically rejected, it said.

In other words, adherence to the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950, and the Indian flag code were now an integral part of the company’s global compliance software, Indian officials said.

Read |Amazon writes to Swaraj, regrets sale of ‘offending’ tricolour-themed doormats

All e-commerce firms operating in India have to adhere to the emblems act that prohibits the misuse of certain emblems and names, including the national flag and Mahatma Gandhi, for trade, business, patent, trademark or design purposes without the permission of the Indian government.

Amazon India has told the government it is committed to respecting Indian laws and customs and had strengthened in-house compliance units that monitor products uploaded by third-party vendors.

First Published: Feb 06, 2017 09:42 IST