CONUNDRUM OF THE CONSUMER PROTECTION (E-COMMERCE) RULES, 2020 - The Daily Guardian
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CONUNDRUM OF THE CONSUMER PROTECTION (E-COMMERCE) RULES, 2020

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The consumer protection (E-commerce) Rules, 2020 has been drafted by the Ministry of Consumer affairs, broadly with an objective to fastened the duties and liabilities of burgeoning e- commerce entities in the country and to safeguard the interest of the consumers, but off late e- commerce entities has raised alarm over the implementation of these rules and has expressed their concerns against them, unusually the government’s various departments also echoed their reservations against them, Industry department ,Corporate Affairs ministry, Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) has highlighted several anomalies and questioned some provisions.

The highlight of the Rules are as follows:

Firstly, Applicability, The Rules apply to all e-commerce retailers, whether or not registered in India or abroad, offering goods and services to Indian consumers.

Secondly, Registration, necessary registration for e- commerce entities with the Department of Promotion for Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), Ministry of Commerce and Industry

Thirdly, Appointment of nodal officer, E-commerce entity need to appoint a nodal person or an alternate senior designated functionary, resident in India to make sure compliance with the provisions of the act or rules.

Fourthly, Prices and expiry dates, The sellers through the e-commerce entities will have to display the total price of goods and services offered for sale along with the break-up of other charges. Also where applicable the expiry date of the good need to be separately displayed.

Fifthly, Country of origin and importer details, All relevant details about the goods and services offered for sale by the Seller including country of origin and in case of imported goods the name and details of the importer, and guarantees related to the authenticity or genuineness of the imported products need to be provided to enable the consumer to make an informed decision at the pre-purchase stage.

Sixthly, Grievance Redressal Mechanism, Marketplaces, as well as sellers, need to appoint a grievance officer who must acknowledge the receipt of complaints within 48 hours and redress the same within 1 month from the date of receipt of the complaint. Also, e-commerce entities need to provide ticket numbers for consumers to track their complaints.

Seventhly, Restriction on unfair trade practice, manipulation and discrimination, The Rules aims to restrict unfair trade practices in e-commerce and direct selling, Further, no e-commerce entity shall manipulate the price of goods or services to gain unreasonable profit or discriminate between consumers of the same class or make any arbitrary classification of consumers affecting their rights.

Eighthly, Should not post fake reviews or mislead, No seller or inventory e-commerce entity shall falsely represent itself as a consumer and post reviews about goods or services or misrepresent the quality or the features of any goods or services.

Ninthly, No cancellation charges, No e-commerce entity shall impose cancellation charges on consumers cancelling after confirming purchase unless similar charges are also borne by the e-commerce entity if they cancel the purchase order unilaterally for any reason.

Tenthly, Sellers should not refuse to take back goods, or withdraw or discontinue services if such goods and services are defective, deficient or spurious. Provided that in the case of late delivery, this condition shall not be applied if such late delivery was due to a force majeure event.

Eleventhly, Record information of sellers selling counterfeit products, E-commerce entities need to maintain a record of information for the identification of all sellers who have repeatedly offered goods or services that have previously been removed or restricted under the Copyright Act, 1957, the Trade Marks Act, 1999 or the Information Technology Act, 2000. However, the e-commerce entity is not required to terminate the access of such seller to its platform, but may do so on a voluntary basis.

Twelfthly, Flash Sales, They are kept under the check and the specific flash sales which limits consumer choice and prevent a level playing field are banned.

Thirteenthly, Restricting related parties, Related parties are restricted from selling their products on e-commerce platforms and this is to tackle the growing concerns of preferential treatment given by the e- commerce platforms to their related parties.

Fourteenthly, Access to government agencies, reporting of cyber security issues, all e- commerce entities must provide information to authorised government agencies, probing any breach of the law relating to cyber security issues, within 72 hours of any such request.

KEY DEFINITIONS:

• e-commerce entity means any person who owns, operates or manages digital or electronic facility or platform for electronic commerce, but does not include a seller offering his goods or services for sale on a marketplace e-commerce entity

• inventory e-commerce entity means an e-commerce entity which owns the inventory of goods or services and sells such goods or services directly to the consumers and shall include single brand retailers and multi-channel single brand retailers

• marketplace e-commerce entity means an e-commerce entity which make available an information technology platform on a digital or electronic network to facilitate transactions between buyers and sellers.

CONTENTIOUS POINTS IN THE DRAFT OF E-COMMERCE RULES

Restricting related parties from listing on the e- commerce platform: This has become the biggest pain point of the e- commerce entities, this restriction has been observed by some of the players as stifling the growing e-commerce market place, it means that associate enterprises of e-commerce entities cannot be listed as a seller on their platforms and this will potentially disrupt the functioning of present e-commerce market leaders like Amazon, flip kart, who have many of its related/associated parties listed as seller on its platform.

OBJECTIONS WITHIN THE GOVERNMENT

The finance ministry, the ministry of corporate affairs, and NITI Aayog have all raised objections.

NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Rajiv Kumar went on to say that the proposed rules send the message of unpredictability in policy-making, and finance ministry has called the rules “excessive”, citing their woes that it had a ramification to hit a sector that could boost job creation and tax revenue, and further will be a stumbling block in ‘ease of doing business’.

The Ministry of Corporate Affairs has opposed the clause that says e-commerce firms should not abuse their dominant position in India, it had called the provision “unnecessary and superfluous”, it further stated that it is undesirable to introduce a mini-competition law regime under the garb of e-commerce rules.

CONCLUSION

The faction from within government giving its signals that these laws are act of going overboard and being perceived as ‘anti-industry’, the crack down on flash sales, making the buck stop on e-marketplaces for seller violations and these all issues are now been raised by industry leaders in the segment and other big corporate groups who are venturing into this tempting e-market place have also raised their voices, which are finding resonance within few factions of the government but trade bodies like the Confederation of All India Traders has firmly backed the new Rules citing its utility in keeping check on the bigger players conduct in the e-commerce genre to not affect the opportunities to grow for small traders, it is in the larger interest to address all the concerns of all ministries and stakeholders in formulating a rules.

Rishesh Sikarwar is an advocate practicing before the Supreme Court of India

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Policy & Politics

THIRD ROUND OF INDIA-UAE CEPA NEGOTIATIONS DUE TO BEGIN IN DELHI ON MONDAY

Tarun Nangia

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Union Minister of Commerce and Industries, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and Textiles, Piyush Goyal, met the representatives of Aluminium, Copper, and Chemicals and Petrochemicals Industry here today as part of the ongoing multi-stakeholder consultations related to the India-UAE Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) negotiations.

The third round of India-UAE CEPA negotiations are scheduled to be held in New Delhi on 06-10 December 2021 wherein both sides aim to conclude the negotiations. Shri Piyush Goyal apprised the representatives from the Industry about the importance of the CEPA in elevating the overall economic and commercial relations with UAE which in turn will not only benefit bilateral trade but also create new jobs and provide wider social and economic opportunities.

Providing a way forward on these discussions, Goyal appreciated the accommodative spirit of the Industry and urged the Industry representatives to continue to support the CEPA negotiations in the same spirit in the wider interests of the nation contributing to the holistic development of multi-sectoral economic value chains in the country.

The Minister also stressed on the potential benefits from the envisaged CEPA agreement for Industries which are labour intensive in nature and also on the numerous complementary spill-over economic benefits, including increased investments, job creation and employment opportunities. Further, industry representatives were also apprised of the strategic importance of the agreement which encompasses deeper bilateral economic engagement and wider market access.

The stakeholders expressed gratitude to the Minister for taking into consideration concerns of Indian Industry and provided constructive inputs on this matter with a view to ensure overall balance between market access and domestic sensitivities.

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Policy & Politics

Rice has a share of more than 45% in the total APEDA basket of exports in April-November 2021-22

India’s exports of agricultural and processed food products witness an increase of more than 13 per cent in the first eight months of current fiscal notwithstanding logistical challenges posed by COVID-19 pandemic

Tarun Nangia

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Notwithstanding logistical challenges posed by COVID19 pandemic, India’s exports of Agricultural and Processed Food products rose by more than 13 per cent in terms of USD in the first eight months of the current fiscal (April-November, 2021-22) compared to the same period of the previous year.






The export of products under the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) ambitincreased from USD 11,671 million in April-November 2020-21to USD 13,261 million in April-November 2021-22.

The target for exports under APEDA basket products has been fixed at USD 23,713 million in 2021-22.

The export of rice was the top forex earner at USD 5937 million during April-November 2021-22, growing 11 per cent over the corresponding period in 2020-21 when it touched USD 5,341million.

Meat, dairy and poultry products exports grew 12 per cent standing at USD 2665 million in April-November 2021-22compared to USD 2371 million in the corresponding eight-month period of 2020-21. Fruits and vegetables exports were up by 12 per cent to touch USD 1720 million during April-November 2021-22 against USD 1536 million in April-November 2020-21.

Exports of cereal preparations and miscellaneous processed items grew by 26 per cent during April-November 2021-22 to touch USD 1418 million against USD 1127 million in April-November, 2020-21. The cashew exports also grew by 29 per cent to USD 302 million in the first eight months of current fiscal compared to same period previous year.

The exports of oil meals declined by 12 per cent to USD 626 million in April-November, 2021-22, compared to same period in 2020-21.

Table: Agricultural and processed food products exports (April-November), 2021-22 vs 2020-21

Exports (April-November 2021-22) in USD million

Exports (April-November 2020-21) in USD million

Note: only oil meals exports declined Year-on-Year

The significant rise in agri-exports is seen as a testimony of the government’s commitment to increase farmers’ income through giving thrust on boosting exports of agricultural and processed food products of the country.

“We continue to focus on creating infrastructure for boosting exports by focusing on clusters in collaboration with state governments while taking into consideration objective of Agriculture Export Policy, 2018,” Dr M Angamuthu, Chairman, APEDA, said.

APEDA has been engaged with State Governments for the implementation of Agriculture Export Policy. Maharashtra, U.P., Kerala, Nagaland, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Punjab, Karnataka, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Manipur, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, M.P., Mizoram and Meghalaya have finalized the State specific Action Plan for exports while the action plans of other States are at different stages of finalization.

The rise in export of agricultural and processed food products has been largely due to the various initiatives taken by APEDA such as organizing B2B exhibitions in different countries, exploring new potential markets through product specific and general marketing campaigns by active involvement of Indian Embassies.

APEDA has also taken several initiatives to promote geographical indications (GI) registered agricultural and processed food products in India by organizing virtual Buyer Seller Meets on agricultural and food products with the major importing countries across the world.

In order to ensure seamless quality certification of products to be exported, APEDA has recognized 220 labs across India to provide services of testing to a wide range of products andexporters.

APEDA also assists in upgradation and strengthening of recognized laboratories for export testing and residue monitoring plans. APEDA also provides assistance under the financial assistance schemes of infrastructure development, quality improvement and market development for boosting export of agricultural products.

APEDA organizes participation of exporters in the International Trade Fairs, which provides a platform to the exporters to market their food products in the global marketplace. APEDA also organizes national events like AAHAR, Organic World Congress, BioFach India etc. to promote agri-exports.

APEDA also initiates registration of pack-houses for horticulture products for meeting the quality requirements of the international market. Registration of export units for peanut shelling and grading and processing units, for instance, is to ensure quality adherence for the EU and non-EU countries.

APEDA carries out registration of meat processing plants and abattoirs for ensuring compliance with global food safety and quality requirements. Another key initiative includes development and implementation of traceability systems which ensure the food safety and quality compliances of the importing countries. For boosting exports, APEDA compiles and disseminates various international trade analytical information, market access information amongst exporters and address trade enquiries.

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PIYUSH GOYAL REVIEWS PREPAREDNESS FOR MITIGATION OF CYCLONE JAWAD

Public Private Partnership necessary for Disaster Management and mitigation and for protecting lives and livelihoods, said Goyal

Tarun Nangia

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Piyush Goyal today reviewed preparedness for mitigation of cyclone Jawad.

Under the guidance of Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, proactive disaster preparation and management are being institutionalized. Prime Minister has personally reviewed the preparation for Disaster Management and has also given instructions to various Ministries to work with State Governments, industry and all other stake holders to ensure minimal damage to life and property.

In line with these efforts, the Minister for Commerce and Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and Textiles, Shri Piyush Goyal today reviewed the arrangements and preparations made by the State Governments of Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal today in a Video conference with the State Chief Secretaries concerned. National level Industry Associations like CII, FICCI, ASSOCHAM and PHD Chambers were also represented at the Conference.

The Minister took stock of the preparations being made by the respective State governments. He also reviewed the suggestions for successful mitigation made by Ministries, State Governments, industry bodies and other organizations and appreciated the concerted efforts being made to mitigate the cyclone. He said that this collaboration was a worthy example of cooperative federalism at its best. He also underscored the need for the drawing of a comprehensive action plan towards managing this natural disaster in a most effective way by incorporating the inputs and suggestions given by all stakeholders.

Goyal said that public private partnership is necessary for Disaster Management and mitigation and for protecting the lives and livelihoods of those affected. Observing that the cyclone seems to be a milder one, the Minister said that we must constantly upgrade our learnings and keep upgrading our capabilities. He also called for preparedness in the banking and insurance sectors to tackle the effects of the cyclone.

As per the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), the low-pressure region in the Bay of Bengal is expected to intensify into Cyclone Jawad and is expected to reach the coast of north Andhra Pradesh – Odisha around the afternoon today, with the wind speed ranging up to 100 kmph.

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Job generation: Big scope for expansion of labour intensive plastic, footwear and textile sectors, says Goyal

Tarun Nangia

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Piyush Goyal

Union Minister of Commerce & Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution and Textiles, Piyush Goyaltoday called upon the captains of Indian Industry to set ambitious targets as our economy is poised for a sustained spell of rapid growth. Addressing the 5th Meeting of the CII National Council in New Delhi, he said the Industry has a huge role to play in the uplift of the poor and underprivileged.

Goyal encouraged the Industry to have a greater appetite for taking risks, to invest in Industries that may be less profitable at the start, but are labour oriented and create lakhsof jobs. He also urged the Industry to promote tribalhandicraft products as part of their CSR activities.

Goyal said there is big scope in the expansion of labour intensive Plastics, Footwear and Textiles industry. India cannot be truly Aatmanirbhar, without empowering its poor to be Aatmanirbhar, he added.

Goyal conveyed his appreciation for the Industry’s positive approach in FTA consultations. “Right now we are engaged in FTA negotiations with 6/7 countries,” he said. Citing India’s foreign trade as “very, very comfortable”,

Seeking accommodation in trade deals, Goyal said, “On our part, I believe, that it’s time that we engaged more with the world, we look at deeper engagement, – both imports and exports.” “If we (don’t) open our autos or spirits sectors, for example, it will open greater opportunities for India than the other way round,” he said.

Observing that 2020 has been a year of resilience for the Indian economy, Goyal said that in these unprecedentedtimes India has emerged as the ‘World’s Trusted Partner’ andis poised to contribute significantly to global growth. Policies of the Government in the last more than seven years, under the able leadership of the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, have laid a solid foundation for growth of the Indian economy, he said.

Stating that all economic indices hinted at a fast growth trajectory, Goyal said India has Cost advantage as well as Trust advantage. “Services is growing at a fantastic pace, exports also are, of course on Merchandise,… Similarly remittances continue to be strong, FDI is at never before levels for the 7th time in a row, but this year the growth would be even much more, the capital markets are buzzing which means FII investments also and the IPO market is also gaining a lot of traction,” he said.

Goyal said the way we have fast bounced back since Covid, the way Industry geared itself up, Services sector, for example, reoriented their processes, Government supported Industry adopt WFH, we met all our international commitments throughout the Covid period including the lockdown. “Not for a second did any international supply chain, dependent on India, had to suffer, particularly the Services sector and for that matter even in the Goods sector,” he said.

Stressing that India is going through a sharp and strong revival, the Minister said that rising economic indicators point towards “India is shaping up for a growth decade.”

“Apna time aa gya (Our time has come)! This is the time to be in India & invest in India”, Shri Goyal said, adding “If we fail our Young Generation, it will be truly a sad day for India. We are at the cusp (of history). It’s our time to grab now, we’ll probably regret if we miss this opportunity.”

Goyal said that the Government is doing its part byundertaking transformational reforms such as PLI, PM GatiShakti, ODOP, Single Window, Retrospective tax amendment, National Asset Monetisation Pipeline, etc and opening up sectors like Defence, Space & Atomic Energy, Mining & Minerals, etc.

The Minister urged the top 100 CII members, that could comprise 1,000 companies, to onboard the NSWS Single Window clearance system and make full use of IILB Land Bank System. Resolving to use Indian materials to make a truly Aatmanirbhar Bharat, he said this will transform the future of India by making it self-reliant, resilient & competitive and will create jobs.

Shri Goyal said the Government has initiated several schemes for the benefit of the Industry and the public in general, including Power sector, One Nation, One Ration Card, world’s largest health insurance programme, – AyushmanBharat, UPI payments transfer and Jan Dhan banking for each and every home. “Government has focussed on saturating schemes,” he said.

Expressing confidence on the continuous Public-PrivatePartnership, Goyal said the Government is always thinking of how to empower the Industry and urged the entrepreneurs to come up with new ideas in nation-building.

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Policy & Politics

Share of agri-exports in GDP

Tarun Nangia

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The year-wise details of value of India’s agri-exports of principal agri commodity group along with its share in our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at current prices during last five years is as follows:

The agricultural products having exports of more than Rs 10,000 crore over the last five years is given in the table below. Last year we had 22.8% of growth in agri-exports with a share of 1.6% to GDP (highest in terms of growth and share in the last five years).

Source: DGCI&S, Kolkata and CSO, MoSPI

Source: DGCI&S, Kolkata

Government has taken several measures to boost exports, including agri-exports, such as:

(i) A comprehensive “Agriculture Export Policy” has been introduced toharness export potential of Indian agriculture and raise farmers’ income. Twenty One States viz. Maharashtra, U.P., Kerala, Nagaland, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Punjab, Karnataka, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Manipur, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, M.P., Mizoram, Meghalaya, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh and the 2 UTs vizLadakh and Andaman & Nicobar Islands have finalized the State specific Action Plans. State Level Monitoring Committees (SLMC) has been formed in 26 States and 4 UTs. 28 States & 4 UTs have nominated Nodal agencies for implementation of this AEPs. As part of the Agriculture Export Policy, 46 unique product-district clusters have been identified for export promotion. Twenty-Nine Cluster Level Committees have been formed in cluster districts of different clusters. Country and product-specific action plans have also been formulated to promote exports.

(ii) Products Specific Export Promotion Forums give impetus to the export of potential products as well as to remove the bottlenecks in the supply chain, Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) has formed Export Promotion Forums (EPFs) under the Chairmanship of Chairman, APEDA and having representatives of Department of Commerce, Department of Agriculture, State Governments, National Referral Laboratories and top 10 leading exporters of each product for the products, viz., Grapes, Onions, Mango, Banana, Pomegranate, Floriculture, Rice, Dairy Products and Nutricereals.

(iii) 13 Agri-Cells in Vietnam, USA, Bangladesh, Nepal, UAE, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, China, Japan and Argentina were created in Indian embassies abroad to provide inputs on real time basis to enable us to improve Indian exports.

(iv) Further, In order to boost honey exports, India has made NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance) testing mandatory for honey exported to USA.

(v) A Farmer Connect Portal has been set up for providing a platform for farmers, Farmer-Producer Organizations (FPOs) and cooperatives to interact with exporters. Buyer-Seller Meets (BSMs) have been organized in the clusters to provide export-market linkages. Regular interactions, through video-conferences, have been held with the Indian Missions abroad to assess and exploit export opportunities. Country specific BSMs, through Indian Missions, have also been organized.

(vi) Assistance provided through several other schemes to promote exports, including food export, viz. Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme (TIES), Market Access Initiatives (MAI) Scheme, etc. In addition, assistance to the exporters of food products is also available under the export promotion schemes of APEDA, Tea Board, Coffee Board and Spices Board.

(vii) Government has also introduced a Central Sector Scheme –‘Transport and Marketing Assistance for Specified Agriculture Products’ – for providing assistance for the international component of freight to mitigate the freight disadvantage for the export of agriculture products.

(viii) Common Digital Platform for Certificate of Origin has been launched to facilitate trade and increase FTA utilization by exporters.

(ix) Active role of Indian missions abroad towards promoting our trade, tourism, technology and investment goals has been enhanced.

(x) Package announced in light of the COVID-19 pandemic to support domestic industry through various banking and financial sector relief measures, especially for MSMEs, which constitute a major share in exports.

This information was given by the Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Anupriya Patel, in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha today.

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Policy & Politics

Share of India’s exports in annual GDP

Tarun Nangia

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The details of exports of goods and services and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at current prices, and percentage share of India’s exports to the GDP for the last five years and current year are as follows:

Source: National Accounts Division, CSO, MoSPI Note: RE: Revised Estimate, PE : Provisional Estimate

Source: National Accounts Division, CSO, MoSPI

The share of export of goods and services in GDP has increased to 18.7% during 2020-21 over 18.4% in 2019-20 and 21.7% in 2021-22 (April-September) over 19.4% in 2020-21 (April-September).

The details of the annual rate of growth of exports of goods and services and the corresponding annual rate of growth of GDP at current prices for the last five years and current year are as follows: This information was given by the Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Anupriya Patel, in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha today.

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