Government should have separate data policy from e-commerce, say stakeholders

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Published: March 9, 2019 9:13:41 PM

Stakeholders of India's e-commerce ecosystem said that there should be a separate policy governing data norms from the draft e-commerce policy that aims to regulate Indian e-commerce that is dominated by Amazon and Walmart-owned Flipkart.

More than a dozen representatives shared their comments over the draft e-commerce policy in a meeting with DPIIT.

Stakeholders of India’s e-commerce ecosystem have suggested the government for separating the norms for data protection and data regulation through a new policy instead of integrating it with the e-commerce policy in the offing. More than a dozen representatives including Reliance Industries, Microsoft, Amazon, Ola, Uber, Snapdeal, MakeMyTrip, Netflix, CAIT, AIOVA, Vyapari Mandal, UrbanClap etc., shared their comments on Friday over the draft e-commerce policy in a meeting with senior officials of the department for promotion of industry and internal trade (DPIIT) that was chaired by the department’s additional secretary Shailendra Singh.

“We suggested that the policy needs to be split into two – one should be the e-commerce policy and the other should be the business data policy which will govern data for all categories. It should not just be for e-commerce, social media, cloud computing or technology but also telecom, banking etc., that collect citizens’ data including offline retail giants such Big Bazaar, Shoppers Stop etc. The secretary seemed okay with the suggestion,” LocalCircles Founder and Chairman Sachin Taparia told Financial Express Online. The local social network LocalCircles was also part of the meeting.

The e-commerce policy has to be different, which talks about counterfeiting, piracy, exports, cross border tie ups etc., while the data policy should only talk about data, Taparia said.

Data Sharing

The meeting also discussed upon businesses’ sharing information with their group companies or third party entities overseas. The secretary was informed that the restriction cannot be put especially from the startup perspective.

“If a foreign company wants to acquire an Indian startup and take its business model overseas then going by the proposed regulations, this will not be possible as the data will be travelling outside India. In such scenarios, all the global exit opportunities for Indian companies will go down substantially. The policy team said that this will also be considered,” Taparia added.

Microsoft also echoed the need for data access. “Microsoft said that startups it works with in India access information through various servers abroad to develop their business solutions. If startups wouldn’t be able to share that information with third parties which include companies like Microsoft then their business will come to a standstill,” a source part of the meeting told Financial Express Online.

On the other hand, Amazon asked to ensure that controls being set up to stop counterfeiting in online retail should also spread to offline retail, the source said.

With respect to the deadline for e-commerce companies to respond to the draft e-commerce policy, DPIIT is likely to extend it to March 31 from March 9.

DPIIT is expected to hold closed-door discussions, based on the feedback shared by the stakeholders, from April onward for two months. “The policy will be out after the new government comes in assuming there is no disagreement by the new leaders to what will be discussed in two months,” Taparia said.

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