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Panel Discussion on Draft e-commerce rules and their impact on the industry by The DIalogue

News Desk, News Nation 360: The Dialogue recently organised a focused session of interactions with industry experts to discuss the draft e-commerce rules announced by the government on 21st June 2021. Through the discourse, the experts agreed that these rules will impact consumers, companies as well as investors. Moreover, the experts brought about the fact that over-regulation might hamper the functioning of the e-commerce ecosystem which has helped consumers and sellers in both the waves of the pandemic. The draft rules propose every e-commerce entity, which intends to operate in India, register itself with the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT). The new rules have emulated the IT Intermediary rules governing social media companies in India which necessitates multiple levels of compliance including appointing officers such as a compliance officer and grievance officer. The proposed amendments, such as those on the mandatory appointment of a grievance officer, a chief compliance officer, and a nodal contact person (for 24×7 coordination with law enforcement agencies) for all e-commerce companies, will increase the compliance burden and may impact innovation. These mandatory compliances might make it difficult for small businesses as they have to hire dedicated people and increase overhead costs. Additionally, restrictions on flash sales, discounts on products, etc, might limit the choices and options for consumers and impact the buying experience. Dr Aruna Sharma, IAS, Former Secretary to the Govt. of India expressed that there has to be harmony among various acts, otherwise the smaller e-commerce players will be overburdened with compliances. Physical shops and e-commerce will always co-exist, as certain consumers will always prefer to see the product in person before they buy it. But the preference will be more for e-commerce as consumers find the online shopping experience more convenient. It saves time and also increases their choice. Kazim Rizvi, Founding Director, The Dialogue stated that with the growing demand of the online marketplace and its increased role in the growth of the economy, it is incumbent upon the government to keep online and offline marketplace on the same pedestal. The rules should be drafted in such a manner that it does not increase the costs of operation and cater to the needs of small businesses and consumers. Jehangir Gai, a prominent consumer activist and Deepak Shetty, Director, Zed-Axis Technologies, both are echoed similar sentiments that while a certain amount of regulation is required, the proposed rules will not only limit consumer options with respect to sales and discounts but also hamper the ultimate online shopping experience. Both online and offline markets should be able to always coexist. Though the objective of the rules is laudable, there is a need to check the methodology. So, let’s have meaningful regulation that safeguards the consumers without impacting the industry. MSMEs have survived the pandemic because of e-commerce. The e-commerce medium has allowed local sellers to expand their business by increasing their geographical footprints and reaching more people. It’s essential to keep an open field and let a competitive environment flourish. If they suffocate businesses, they’re going to stifle their creativity.

Report : Anustup Kundu