Don’t interfere in our online sales, e-sellers tell brands; seek equality in offline, online channels

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Updated: Sep 03, 2019 7:05 PM

Calling for an ‘equal opportunity’, 87 per cent of sellers surveyed said that brands have no right to restrict which sellers will sell their goods online since they there is no such enforcement in selling goods offline.

The survey comes amid the government’s focus on ensuring a level playing field between the sellers in online and offline channels.

Sellers on e-commerce platforms in India, the majority of which are also active in the offline or physical retail space not just as sellers but buyers as well or even both, seek greater autonomy in selling goods online without interference from brands whose goods they sell. According to a survey by the e-commerce marketplaces industry body The E-commerce Council of India (TECI), 87 per cent of online sellers don’t want brands to attempt exercising greater control over online channels. If selling goods offline don’t require “permission from a brand to sell its product in their physical shops, the online sellers should also not be required to seek such permission,” sellers said in the survey report.

Calling for an ‘equal opportunity’, 87 per cent of sellers surveyed said that brands have no right to restrict which sellers will sell their goods online since they there is no such enforcement by the brands for sellers selling goods offline. The survey was conducted among sellers selling for minimum 12 months on at least two marketplaces among Flipkart, Amazon, Snapdeal, Paytm Mall and ShopClues. The survey responses were based on 541 respondents.

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The survey comes amid the government’s focus on ensuring a level playing field between the sellers in online and offline channels and ensuring that marketplaces stay true to their nature of being a platform of enabling buyer-seller meet and don’t get involved in influencing price or sale of goods sold on their platform directly or indirectly via their subsidiary sellers’ arm. FDI guidelines, draft e-commerce policy, need for a separate data policy etc., are policy measures taken by the government to ensure consumer rights and data are safeguarded. “However, the voice of independent sellers has not been heard on e-commerce issues,” TECI said even as “medium and small enterprises are the foundation of the supply side of e-commerce marketplaces.”

While the recent updates to the FDI policy (via press note 2 of 2018) comes following the role of these marketplaces repeatedly been scrutinized, 94 per cent respondents in the survey said that sellers “controlled” by the marketplace “through various arrangements” impact business of independent sellers even as 90 per cent said marketplaces should stop selling their private labels as it leads to a conflict of interest. This is because marketplaces use pricing and demand insights from their platform to introduce private labels and this becomes a disadvantage for third-party sellers to be competitive.

Here are the other findings from the survey:

  • 89 per cent respondents stressed on the importance of neutrality of the marketplace and that latter should not sell goods of own or related party sellers on its platform.
  • 81 per cent of those surveyed said that the counterfeits problem is common in offline and online markets.
  • 80 per cent asked e-commerce marketplaces to inform them before removing their listing from the portal instead of informing them after removing the listing or blacklisting the seller to allow them to present their facts.

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