The government has set September 30 as deadline for ecommerce companies to complete assigning country of origin tags to both new and existing items on their platforms. Speaking to Livemint, a Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) said on the condition of anonymity, “We have asked the ecommerce players to complete the exercise by 30 September.”
The statement comes even as ecommerce industry associations had sought another 6-7 months extension from the government to comply with the new consumer protection rules. The mandatory listing of ‘country of origin’ for products listed on ecommerce websites is one of the main rules to be followed. Other key provisions include the appointment of grievance offers and resolution of consumer complaints within one month of receiving the complaint, among other such provisions.
The Consumer Protection (Ecommerce) Rules, 2020, were notified on July 23 and came into effect immediately. The Rules are applicable to all goods and services, bought or sold over digital or electronic networks, including digital products. As such, even companies providing internet services such as online ticketing and hotel booking, are defined as ecommerce entities and subject to the new rules.
Meanwhile, the ecommerce representative said that DPIIT has mentioned the deadline only during recent meetings but has not sent any written communication yet. “Though the government would like it to be sooner than later, I doubt the September 30 deadline is practical. For new listings it is possible, but for old listings much more time is required,” the e-commerce representative told Livemint.
Initially, the government was keen to make it mandatory to display ‘country of origin’ of products sold on ecommerce platforms starting August 1, but online retailers have pushed back saying the deadline may not be feasible.
“Some trade bodies have written that companies would need 6-7 months. Some companies have written back saying for legacy listings it will be impossible to meet the deadline as in a physical lockdown, it is not possible to access the goods physically and check the country of origin in the packet. We want it to be done quickly but it is the sellers who have to do it not the platforms. The problem is the sellers are not in those meetings though they have to do 90% of the work,” the person said.
Reportedly, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICC) wrote to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs earlier in August, asking for six to seven months time for complying with the new rules.
“Some of these requirements will put undue stress on MSME sellers who already have their backs up against the wall due to excessive compliances that come with selling online,” a senior executive at an e-commerce firm told Economic Times.
The new rules also apply to overseas-based ecommerce entities supplying goods and services to Indian customers.
In July, the DPIIT had proposed August 1 as the deadline for etailers to display ‘country of origin’ information for all products being retailed on their website. In response, ecommerce companies Amazon and Flipkart sought more time, saying that a hastened deadline would harm small sellers, who may be unsure about ways of complying with the new rules. Later in the same month, Amazon, in a letter to its sellers, asked them to provide ‘country of origin’ information for products by August 10.
According to the new consumer protection rules for etailers, failure to abide by them would attract penalties as per the recently ratified Consumer Protection Act (CPA), 2019.
The CPA mandates every ecommerce entity to provide information relating to return, refund, exchange, warranty and guarantee, delivery and shipment, modes of payment and grievance redressal mechanism, among other things to enable the consumer to make an informed decision. Further, the Act also calls upon ecommerce entities to provide ‘country of origin’ information for all products. The ‘country of origin’ clause has attracted a lot of attention in the wake of anti-China sentiment in the country and the resultant call to reduce dependency on imports.