AIOVA to Cabinet Secretary: Compel offices in charge of our industry to not hold talks without our inputs

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March 15, 2021 8:26 PM

Ease of Doing Business for MSMEs: In order to ensure fair competition among sellers on the e-commerce marketplaces such as Amazon and Flipkart, the current draft of the e-commerce policy had noted that e-commerce operators must ensure equal treatment of all sellers registered on their platforms.

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Ease of Doing Business for MSMEs: Two days after a copy of the latest draft e-commerce policy was leaked, which Financial Express Online had reviewed, e-commerce sellers’ lobby group All India Online Vendors Association (AIOVA) on Monday vehemently urged India’s Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba to engage them in discussions related to e-commerce sector’s reforms. Ahead of the upcoming e-commerce policy, which has been in the works since early 2019, AIOVA earnestly appealed to Gauba in a letter on Monday “to intervene in this situation and compel the offices in charge of our industry to not hold any discussions which do not have inputs or participation from our fraternity.” A copy of the letter was seen by Financial Express Online.

“AIOVA has categorically not been part of even a single meeting with government on the e-commerce industry. Recent draft (of e-commerce policy) has multiple things missing, we have not spent the effort to make a list,” an AIOVA spokesperson told Financial Express Online.

The letter argued that while both the government and e-commerce platforms (without naming Amazon, Flipkart, and other marketplaces) claimed to protect the interest of online sellers, “however none of them are engaging in discussions with us.” AIOVA highlighted its exclusion from discussions related to the e-commerce industry being held by the government through the “Ministry of Commerce and Department of Planning, Investment and Internal Trade who have been allocated e-commerce, retail and internal trade as per rules of allocation of business.”

The association, which represented over 3,500 e-commerce sellers, claimed that its letters to various higher authorities have always been forwarded to DPIIT “which has sat on our letters and internally decided not to engage with our organization. Our request for meeting with officers and ministry of Commerce has also been rejected and unanswered.”

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In order to ensure fair competition among sellers on the e-commerce marketplaces, the current draft of the e-commerce policy had noted that e-commerce operators must ensure equal treatment of all sellers registered on their platforms and that they should not adopt algorithms that result in prioritising select sellers. Traders’ body Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) has also been alleging unfair business practices undertaken by Amazon and Flipkart including violation of FDI and Foreign Exchange Management Act.

During the launch of the vendor onboarding app of its own e-commerce marketplace Bharat E-Market past Thursday, CAIT President BC Bhartia said that foreign multinational e-commerce giants operating in India were not giving a fair opportunity for Indian sellers to thrive. “They were giving preferential treatment to a select group of sellers and were controlling the inventory on their platforms. Now with BharatEMarket, Indian traders will grow handsomely and prove their mettle in Indian e-commerce,” Bhartia added. However, both Flipkart and Amazon, on several occasions, have claimed neutral treatment to sellers on their respective marketplaces and complete compliance with existing laws.

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