The much-awaited ecommerce policy may be brought in by the government in the current fiscal. The policy is aimed at clearing up regulatory issues for online marketplaces including Amazon, Flipkart and other web-based service providers including Ola, Uber.
“We are trying to bring it early since it is a very important policy. We are talking about commercial data here. There is a large number of ecommerce data. I can not give a timeline but we will target to bring it in the current fiscal,” Guru Prasad Mohapatra, Secretary of the department for the promotion of industry and internal trade (DPIIT) was quoted as saying by Outlook India.
“The draft of e-commerce bill is out,” he added. The new ecommerce policy may also lay down how non-personal data will be treated. For instance, commercial data held by ecommerce companies, anonymised data and community data will reportedly be treated according to their location and processing.
“We have started stakeholder consultations on how to treat non-personal data. It is a highly sensitive matter as different stakeholders have different views on it. For instance, Nasscom has its set of opinions, while industry body CII has its own views. There are also various studies done on the subject. All these will be examined one by one,” added Mohapatra.
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Discussions over the broad contours of the policy have been going on for more than a year now. The commerce ministry had earlier said that the final document would be out only after other technology policies are mandated as it was trying to avoid overlaps and contradictions.
“We have had several rounds of discussions and we have in place a broad outlook of how the policy will be,” said a commerce ministry source.
The draft ecommerce policy had earlier proposed constituting a dedicated ‘data authority’. The authority would work towards issues related to the sharing of community data with startups and firms to serve the larger public interest.
India’s ecommerce industry is estimated at around $39 Bn in 2017 and is expected to grow to $200 Bn by 2026. The ecommerce policy is expected to find a balance between boosting the digital economy and safeguarding the interests of all stakeholders. The ecommerce rules are being put in place after consultation with several ministries.
Data protection has been handled by the IT Ministry for every industry and sector where data storage is involved. The draft for the data protection bill was being prepared by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and will be tabled for the Winter session. Finance Ministry had also earlier, reportedly, suggested that provisions regarding data protection should not be made part of the new ecommerce policy.
Regarding data localisation, the government had mentioned about regulating cross-border data flows and setting up storage facilities locally in the draft ecommerce policy released in February.
According to the draft, sensitive data collected and processed locally but stored abroad cannot be shared with any third party. FDI rules have also been laid out in the draft. A notification released in December 2018 barred online marketplaces from having exclusive marketing arrangements and predatory pricing.