Nagpur :-Calling for a robust & dynamic regulatory framework with a consumer centric mandate, the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) has strongly pitched for six basic fundamentals needed for e-commerce policy and the rules under Consumer Protection Act. In a communication sent to Union Commerce & Consumer Affairs Minister Piyush Goyal, the CAIT said six fundamentals are necessary for a robust growth of e-commerce which include transparent operations of e-commerce platforms;, easy accessibility and adequate grievance redressal by e-commerce entities, non- discriminatory access of marketplace platforms to all stakeholders of the value-chain, Avoidance of conflict of interest between marketplace platforms, sellers & various service providers on the platform and formation of an empowered Regulatory Authority to monitor and regulate the e-commerce trade in India.

CAIT National President B.C.Bhartia & Secretary General Praveen Khandelwal said that mandatory registration of e-commerce entities conducting business through any e-mode will lay the substantial foundation of a well defined eco-system and the extent of e-commerce landscape can easily be gauged with the Registration process and shall protect consumers from rogue/fraudulent e-commerce companies Transparency should be the hallmark of any business activity and every e-commerce marketplace must therefore act in a transparent manner with respect to all stakeholders, namely – the customer, sellers, logistics partners and payment gateways. Therefore, all sorts of agreement between the platform and sellers registered on the said platform should be disclosed in a transparent manner disclosing all information about the sellers and products to the consumer at the pre-purchase stage. Further, the search algorithm used by the e-commerce marketplace must be transparently disclosed and displayed to the users so that they can make informed choices.

Bhartia & Khandelwal further said that it must be ensured that consumers can reach out to senior grievance redressal officers of the marketplace entities to resolve their concerns and therefore provision of Grievance Officer, Nodal Officer & Compliance Officer is laudable. The CAIT further opined that it is extremely important for an e-commerce marketplace platform to act as a neutral platform for third party sellers where every such seller has a non-discriminatory access in the context of Logistics service provider, payment gateway system and each seller must have a non-discriminatory access to every customer and every customer must have such access to every seller on the platform. Marketplace entities must not be allowed to provide third party services like logistics including delivery and warehousing, payment services etc. All parties providing these services, including related parties of the E-commerce Marketplace entity, should transparently publish on the platform (i) the terms and conditions for such services; (ii) the delivery charges, warehousing charges, charges for payment services etc.; and (iii)all other commercial terms.

Bhartia & Khandelwal suggested that to avoid any conflict of interest, the e-commerce marketplace or its related entities should not act as a seller on such marketplace platforms. Further, the inventory based platform cannot be allowed to act as a marketplace e-commerce platform by enrolling third party sellers. Hence, clear and unambiguous definitions of e-commerce marketplace entity and inventory based e-commerce store entity are required in the rules.At present many E-commerce Marketplace entities are creating economic disruption by surreptitiously carrying on inventory e-commerce activities on their marketplace platform. The E-commerce Marketplace entities themselves become sellers on the platform by misusing loopholes and are virtually carrying out Multi Brand Retail Trade (MBRT) and also they are even selling goods below the cost to capture market share thereby creating enormous financial strain on small retailers who have no option but to shut shop.

Bhartia & Khandelwal said that the e-commerce policy and the rules will put an end to the subsidies being extended to controlled sellers by offering huge discounts to them in a differentiated manner. Similarly, the use of affiliated payment service providers to lure consumers and influence them to buy from these controlled trading companies, by giving discounts on payment service charges,would come to an end.

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