There have been a few changes to e-commerce rules in India which have picked up a storm. The changes proposed by the Department of Consumer Affairs are wide-ranging in nature, spilling into multiple aspects and sectors beyond just e-tailers like Flipkart, Amazon India, and their flash sales. The government’s proposed changes for the e-commerce sector will impact a wide range of online companies selling goods and services, at least four industry sources.
The Department of Consumer Affairs’ proposals will hit online travel company MakeMyTrip, food delivery firms Zomato and Swiggy, ride-hailing service providers Ola and Uber, besides home services company Urban Company, they said. subsequently, These companies are currently reviewing the potential impact of the draft India e-commerce rules. Some of these firms are likely to participate from Friday in discussions through industry associations such as FICCI, CII, and IndiaTech. All these companies when asked to comment on the situation, they denied to.
The spread of the rules to platforms across sub-sectors of online commerce has drawn further criticism from industry stakeholders. The main grouse: online platforms offering services say they have been clubbed together with platforms selling goods. They have also expressed concern over multiple proposals—including the blanket ban on flash sales, promoting domestic alternatives at the pre-purchase stage, and a ‘fallback liability’. This factor is another area of concern among companies offering services like travel or food aggregation. This clause essentially makes the platform liable if “a seller registered with such an entity fails to deliver the goods or services ordered by a consumer”—due to multiple factors including negligent conduct. E-commerce firms are not in favor of this clause, but it has become harder for platforms offering services like travel to take liability, because of the disruptions wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Moreover,the changed e-commerce rules only allow e-commerce portals to conduct conventional sale events while disallowing “only specific flash sales or back-to-back sales,” had compounded the confusion among e-tailers, brands, and sellers. The government directive said flash sales will not be allowed as they “limit customer choice, increase prices and prevent a level playing field.”
“Flash sales are important for the travel sector, and it’s been happening for a while where airlines offer a number of seats at low prices. Even suggestions like offering local alternatives, how will it work? Do we flash an Indian airline every time someone tries to book a flight on a foreign airline, which might be cheaper than an Indian alternative?” a person aware of the discussions asserted.