India’s draft e-commerce policy calls for equal treatment of sellers

India’s draft e-commerce policy calls for equal treatment of sellers

News: India’s draft e-commerce policy calls for equal treatment of sellers.

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India will require e-commerce companies to treat sellers equally across their platforms and ensure transparency. This emerges from a draft directive that Reuters saw on Saturday that follows criticism of the business practices of large online companies.

India has been considering a new e-commerce policy for months, amid complaints from brick-and-mortar retailers accusing online giants like Amazon and Walmart’s Flipkart of disregarding federal regulations. The companies have denied the allegations.

A Reuters special report last month found that Amazon had been giving preferential treatment to a small group of sellers on its India platform for years, using it to circumvent the country’s overseas investment rules. To read the special report, click reut.rs/2OCOT2W

The latest draft of the policy document states that operators should be impartial in dealing with sellers.

“E-commerce operators must ensure that all sellers / providers registered on their platforms are treated equally and must not use algorithms that lead to selected providers / sellers being prioritized,” it says.

A spokesman for the Commerce Department declined to comment.

The policy applies to Amazon and Flipkart – two top e-commerce providers in India – as well as domestic providers like Reliance Industries who are planning to expand their JioMart online platform. All three companies did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Separately, India is also considering changes to foreign investment rules that could lead players like Amazon to restructure their relationships with some big sellers, Reuters reported in January.

Government officials will hold discussions with industry executives about such rules next week, according to people with direct knowledge.

Senior government officials from various departments, including the Department of Commerce, met on Saturday to discuss e-commerce policy. The schedule for its release and whether further changes would be made was not immediately clear.

Indian merchants have also complained of huge discounts from online businesses that smaller retailers have been unable to reach. Amazon and Flipkart have stated that they comply with all laws.

E-commerce companies need to “establish clear and transparent guidelines for online discounts,” says the draft document.

Last month’s Reuters special report – based on internal Amazon documents from 2012 to 2019 – showed that the company helped a small number of sellers thrive on its Indian platform by receiving discounted fees and offering specials major technology manufacturers.

Amazon has stated that it “does not give preferential treatment to any seller in its market” and “treats all sellers in a fair, transparent and non-discriminatory manner”.

Reporting from Aditya Kalra in New Delhi; Adaptation by Clelia Oziel

Original Source © Reuters

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