The first meeting of the recently formed ecommerce panel of secretaries was held on Thursday (September 14), during which issues related to the definition of ecommerce and grievances related to the industry were discussed.
The panel of secretaries, which is headed by industry secretary Ramesh Abhishek, will meet again next month. This committee is different from the inter-ministerial task force that is working on the draft ecommerce policy.
The panel has been set up to deliberate “ongoing issues in ecommerce”, officials were cited as saying in a media report. “This is a standing panel which will continue to discuss wider issues in ecommerce,” an official added.
As of now, the commerce and industry ministry, consumer affairs ministry, department of IT, WTO, OECD, and UNCTAD have separate definitions of ecommerce. In order to mitigate confusion, the proposed draft ecommerce policy mentions a common definition of ecommerce for the purpose of domestic policymaking and for the adoption of international negotiations, which the newly formed panel discussed during its first meeting.
The panel also discussed other issues including payment mechanisms, ways to control the sale of counterfeit products through online platforms, and facilitating logistics for the sector.
What’s The Debate Over Draft Ecommerce Policy?
Since the submission of the first draft of the proposed ecommerce policy on July 30, various sections of the industry and government have raised concerns on certain clauses of the draft ecommerce policy. The draft was discussed in the PMO in a meeting attended by officials of NITI Aayog and some other ministries on August 28 to address the differences among the various stakeholders on the proposed draft ecommerce policy.
Here are some of the clauses in the proposed draft ecommerce policy that are causing the debate and have evoked protests from various stakeholders of the ecommerce industry:
- The draft recommends permitting up to 49% foreign direct investment in inventory-based business-to-customer e-commerce model and a preference for RuPay
- The draft has suggested a possible alternative in which ecommerce may be understood to mean buying, selling, marketing, distribution, or delivery of goods and services through electronic means and digital products
- Draft also suggests that digital products that are delivered in a tangible form can be delivered in an electronic form, which include emusic, ebooks, movies, software, etc
- Activities such as leasing have been included in the new definition, as per the proposed draft ecommerce policy
As a part of the protests, the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) had written to the Ministry of Commerce stating that the fundamentals of the proposed draft ecommerce policy should not be diluted.
Following this, the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) has effectively ruled out foreign direct investment (FDI) in inventory based ecommerce models.
A think tank on the framework for the national policy regarding ecommerce, a task force to draft the ecommerce policy, and now another panel discussing the ecommerce definition and its related grievances. While the ecommerce policy draft will reportedly undergo significant changes further, there is a clear disproportion in between the noise being made in the name of reforms and the actual ecommerce policy reforms happening on the ground.[The development was reported by ET]