New Delhi: India will come out with a framework for a national policy on e-commerce in the next six months to deal with issues including competition, regulation, data privacy, taxation and technical aspects such as localisation of servers and technology transfer.
The government decided on Tuesday to set up a task force to finalise the contours of a policy for the e-commerce sector, commerce secretary Rita Teaotia said.
“Issues related to e-commerce including taxation, infrastructure, investments, technology transfer, data protection, regulations and competition were discussed… The objective is to come out with a framework for an e-commerce policy,” Teaotia said. The decision to set up a task force was taken during the first meeting of the think-tank on the framework for a National Policy on E-Commerce. The think-tank is chaired by commerce and industry minister Suresh Prabhu.
“The taskforce will come out with a set of recommendations, which would be brought before the thinktank in five months,” Teaotia said. The think-tank will give its report in the sixth month, she said. She said the policy is important in view of issues faced by the domestic industry and to help India articulate its stand on ecommerce at the World Trade Organization. While India is participating in the technical negotiations on the issues at the WTO, it has opposed taking any rule-making and commitments on the matter.
The issue of regulation and competition in the ecommerce sector came up prominently in the meeting. Most companies said a regulator is needed, especially because big players are abusing their dominance by burning cash.
The think-tank includes officials from the ministries of commerce, finance, home affairs, corporate affairs and electronics & information technology, besides representatives from telecom, IT and e-commerce companies Bharti Enterprises, Reliance Jio Infocomm, Tata Consultancy Services, Wipro, Ola, Snapdeal, Makemytrip, Urban Clap, Justdial, PepperFry and Practo.
“One e-tailer sought a level playing field with foreign counterparts in order to protect offline sellers selling through its website,” said an official present at the meeting. The issue of deep discounts was also raised by some companies. “Most players were in favour of light-touch regulation, not a heavy-handed mandate. However, the idea of complete deregulation didn’t find many takers,” said another official who attended the meeting.