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E-commerce rules: Nasscom asks govt to rationalise obligations based on biz activities, limit fallback liability to timely refund

09:02 PM Jul 23, 2021 | PTI

Rationalising obligations in line with activities of relevant entities, and limiting fallback liability of online retailers to ensuring timely refund to consumers are among the recommendations suggested by Nasscom to the proposed e-commerce rules.

The IT industry body on Friday said its recommendations on the proposed e-commerce rules "focus on strengthening consumer protection, ensuring that the obligations are proportionate to the underlying risks and are unambiguous".

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The draft e-commerce rules released by the government on June 21 propose to ban fraudulent flash sales and mis-selling of goods and services on e-commerce platforms. Appointments of chief compliance officer/grievance redressal officer are among the key amendments proposed under the Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020.

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Nasscom said some of the proposed amendments "appear to be beyond the scope of the Consumer Protection Act 2019 (COPA19) and are instead a subject matter of either the Competition Act, 2002 or the Information Technology Act, 2000...in our submission, we undertook a clause-by-clause review of the proposed amendments and suggested the way forward".

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The government on Monday extended till August 5 the deadline for public comments on proposed amendments to the Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020. Earlier, the last date for public comments on the draft e-commerce rules was July 6.

Some of the recommendations include removal of the word 'own' from the definition of an e-commerce entity.

"This is with the aim of excluding from the scope those technology entities that own the digital platform and license/provide it to e-commerce companies. e-Commerce companies in turn operate and manage the front-end platforms. Therefore, the definition should only include entities that operate and manage the e-commerce platforms," Nasscom argued.

It also noted that instead of prohibiting certain activities, an indicative list of unfair trade practices be included that the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) may investigate upon, for ensuring consumer protection.

"In case of fallback liability, suggested that the obligation on a marketplace e-commerce entity should be to the extent of ensuring timely refund to consumers if the consumer has already paid for such goods or services," Nasscom said.

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One of the proposals says that a marketplace e-commerce entity will be subject to a 'fallback liability' when a seller registered on its platform fails to deliver the goods or services ordered by a consumer due to negligent conduct, omission or commission of any act by such seller.

Nasscom emphasised that keeping in view the uniqueness of different e-commerce models, rationalising obligations in line with activities of relevant entities in the e-commerce supply chain is crucial in revising the existing framework for consumer protection.

Various industry bodies have raised concerns around various provisions of the proposed regulations.

Recently, Internet and Mobile Association of India - which represents various digital platforms like Google, Ola, Flipkart and Amazon - had said the proposed e-commerce regulations could negatively impact consumer interest, while creating a high level of uncertainty and increase compliance burden for not just e-commerce companies but MSMEs providing services to online retailers.

The Indo American Chamber of Commerce (IACC) had stated that the proposed regulations could increase compliance liabilities, affect global investor sentiment with respect to ease of doing business in the country, and severely impair growth of the online commerce sector, while Supreme Court senior advocate Gopal Jain had said holding e-commerce companies responsible for goods sold by some other sellers and proposed restrictions on sale of goods by related parties on the platform will hurt the MSMEs.

While Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF) -- a group of homegrown startups -- had welcomed the proposals saying these will protect consumer interests in the long run, it had also highlighted that smaller e-commerce entities will find it difficult to appoint three separate people as chief compliance officer, nodal contact person and resident grievance officer as mandated by the proposed rules.

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