Marketplaces should not always be held liable for goods sold online, quality, returns, says e-commerce lobby

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Updated: April 1, 2019 8:40:44 PM

India's e-commerce council TECI, in its submission to DPIIT with respect to the draft e-commerce policy, said that warrantees and guarantees, as per FDI guidelines, are the responsibility of the seller. TECI's members include Snapdeal, ShopClues, Fynd, UrbanClap etc.

The 12-member e-commerce lobby includes Snapdeal, ShopClues, Fynd, UrbanClap, Bewakoof, Mamaearth, Shop101 etc.

The association for India’s e-commerce marketplaces and digital-first companies — The E-commerce Council of India (TECI) formed last month has made its submission to Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) pertaining to the draft e-commerce policy. The 12-member e-commerce lobby includes Snapdeal, ShopClues, Fynd, UrbanClap, Bewakoof, Mamaearth, Shop101 etc.

Reiterating marketplaces’ role as distinct from sellers and brands available or listed on their platforms, the council has asked DPIIT to continue with the protection of intermediaries, that is marketplaces, as per liability of intermediaries under Section 79 of the Information Technology Act “without any dilution for e-commerce entities with regard to the legal obligations pertaining to sellers/brands,” it said.

“Whether it is about goods sold online, their quality, returns or even data, a lot of time customers end up holding marketplaces responsible for all of that. In fact, it actually happens on sellers or even buyers end too. Marketplaces in such cases should not be held liable,” Fynd’s Co-founder Harsh Shah and TECI’s member told Financial Express Online.

The 12-member e-commerce lobby includes Snapdeal, ShopClues, Fynd, UrbanClap, Bewakoof, Mamaearth, Shop101 etc.

TECI highlighted that the warranties and guarantees, as per FDI guidelines, are the responsibility of the seller. Hence, these should not be shifted to the marketplaces, which neither own nor sell the goods.

Level Playing Field

With respect to counterfeit or fake products issue, it suggested that brands should themselves exercise diligence, similar to offline markets, to ensure there are no fakes instead of shifting the responsibility to the marketplaces.

TECI further suggesting equal treatment to all sellers on a marketplace platform said that a trademark owner should not be allowed to give approval for online sales to avoid become a tool for trade channel control.

“This means that if Fynd wants to sell, let’s say, Nike shoes on its platform and we have a distributor who has the right to sell Nike shoes online then we shouldn’t be forced to take additional approval from Nike to sell. Current guidelines suggest that marketplaces should reach out to Nike to sell on their platform. This can end up with big brands favouring large marketplaces only while causing a big disadvantage to small players,” said Shah.

Data Benefit

Coming to the data guidelines, TECI said that there should be enough scope for marketplaces through which the data is generated to exploit the non-personal data for their benefit.

“Government has taken a stand to define data as any other natural resource which is absolutely not true. While data will be generated in the absence of marketplaces as well but since they play a key part in its creation, marketplaces should have the right to use anonymised data for their commercial benefit. A standalone customer doesn’t have any data. Coming onto marketplaces leads to the generation of data,” said Shah.

TECI also stressed on consumer protection, FDI laws governing marketplaces to ensure that they don’t act as sellers, and setting up of India entity by cross-border entities.

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