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Ecommerce policy should apply equally to Indian, foreign firms: parliamentary panel

Bengaluru: A parliamentary committee on ecommerce has said that the government should address ongoing concerns related to antitrust, deep discounting, and preferential treatment of sellers, regardless of whether the platform is Indian or foreign-owned.

“A holistic framework that addresses these issues, irrespective of the marketplace being funded by foreign or domestic entities, is the need of the hour,” it said in a report, before recommending ways to tackle various competition issues in the sector.

The committee noted that the foreign direct investment (FDI) policy on ecommerce is “limited” in addressing anticompetitive practices such as “self-preferencing, lack of platform neutrality, deep discounting, exclusive agreements and preferential treatment to selected sellers.”

The report was submitted to the Rajya Sabha secretariat on Wednesday.

A time-bound investigation mechanism is needed “to address the fast-paced digital market and ensure that unfair market practices do not occur due to sluggish investigation process,” it added.

The committee recommended that the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) work out a comprehensive framework for ecommerce and include it in the National Ecommerce Policy.

The panel also said the marketplace and inventory models of ecommerce should be clearly defined. It suggested that marketplace entities should not sell any goods owned or "controlled” by them on their platforms, and those that wish to sell directly to customers should not have any third-party sellers on their platforms.

The panel also hoped the government would bring in “much-needed reforms in the ecommerce sector in a time-bound manner in order to give a fillip to the trade industry while instilling customer confidence and providing a level playing field to the stakeholders.”

The report was prepared after hearing views from various stakeholders, including DPIIT, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, the Ministry of Finance, Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI), logistics player Ecom Express, and various state governments.

The committee observed that the underlying cause of issues raised by sellers and businesses was a lack of neutrality on platforms.


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