18:42 GMT29 July 2021
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    Amazon and Flipkart (owned by Walmart) are the biggest e-commerce players in the 1.3-billion-strong Indian market. Both companies have often been accused by the Indian government of flouting local laws and indulging in predatory pricing practices.

    Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM), the economic wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), on Wednesday called upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government to amend the newly introduced Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020, to further check the growing hegemony of American e-commerce giants in India.

    The Hindu nationalist RSS is the ideological parent of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

    While welcoming the new rules, SJM's co-convenor Ashwani Mahajan said that several clauses in the new law still do not address the concerns of small Indian traders, who are already at a disadvantage due to the dominant market positions of e-commerce giants.

    In his communication to the federal Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Mahajan noted that the definition of "consumer" in the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, doesn't include a person who purchases goods for re-sale or other commercial purposes.

    The Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020 come under Section 94 of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019

    "It is apparent that since provisions of the Act do not apply to traders and service providers, as referred above, the rules framed under the Act would also not be applicable to them, and therefore cannot be expected to provide any protection under these rules, even if they are exploited due to the dominant position of the e-commerce giants", the SJM said.

    The economic advocacy outfit further claimed that "small traders" on Amazon and Flipkart, or drivers on ride-sharing apps such as Uber were being subjected to "severe hardships" by the e-commerce giants.

    "Obviously, consumer protection laws (in their current form) cannot provide any protection to these vulnerable sections of society", Mahajan said.

    The Indian outfit lamented that the new rules failed to define the concepts of "dominant market position" or "abuse" of position, on the back of allegations in India that big e-commerce companies exploit small suppliers who use their services to distribute goods and services.

    The group said that e-commerce platforms must also ensure transparency in the way they do business by disclosing the details about their total business and advertising costs, as well as complaints received and redressed every three months.

    End User Rights Must be Protected

    SJM has also suggested a series of amendments to the new e-commerce rules to guarantee that the rights and privacy of end users of products and services are protected.

    The outfit said the new law must mandate "proper two-way communication" between buyers and sellers without compromising the privacy of sellers or customers.

    It complained that consumers are not provided with "proper information" about the actual supplier of goods, which hinders the process of redressing any grievances arising from transactions.

    The Indian group additionally noted that dominant e-commerce players were currently indulging in "unfairly collecting" data about goods being sold by their vendors and sharing these details with their "associates".

    SJM on Wednesday said that India should penalise this unfair business practice under the new rules.

    The RSS-affiliated group, further called for the creation of e-courts to swiftly resolve e-commerce-related disputes.


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