Govt proposes two dates for e-commerce cos on displaying country of origin

The border stand-off with China has sparked a campaign to boycott Chinese products
The government has asked e-commerce companies to ensure that the ‘country of origin’ of all products is clearly listed on their platform so that the consumer can make informed decisions. In a follow-up meeting with the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) on Wednesday, the government gave the recommendation to online retailers that for new products listed on e-commerce platforms, the country of origin should be displayed next to the products from August 1, 2020. It also suggested the firms to display the country of origin for existing products from October 1, 2020. The development comes amid a growing clamour for the boycott of Chinese products in India, combined with the government’s push for Aatmanirbhar Bharat.

According to people aware of the proceedings, the virtual meeting was attended by many companies, including Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal, Lenskart and JioMart. However, some firms told the government to provide them at least 3-5 months to be able to keep the technology platform ready to enable the display of country of origin for new and old listings.

“The e-commerce companies said that they are working towards it but they would not be able to meet this deadline,” said an e-commerce industry executive. “There is not enough regulatory clarity on the whole issue.”

E-commerce executives said that platforms such as Amazon and Flipkart have in excess of at least 300 million existing products listed online. They said, expecting small, medium and large sellers to complete the onerous task of marking country of origin for products will negatively impact them to come online. The compliance burden is on the sellers and small businesses especially during Covid-19 time as they are facing challenges to survive. Also, there are other issues including unbranded products being sold in the country.

“For example, a chair or a bucket being sold may not have a tag about where it was made. If you can buy it in the local market without the country of origin mentioned on it, why can’t you buy it online,” said an e-commerce industry official.

Wednesday's meeting is part of the follow-up interaction that took place after the Government e-Marketplace (GeM) platform, which operates under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, recently made it mandatory for its listed sellers to specify the country of origin while registering new products on the portal.

The border stand-off with China has sparked a campaign to boycott Chinese products. The move to have GeM sellers specify the country of origin was seen by some as a way to lead by example and force large e-commerce firms to comply.

The Confederation of All India Traders ( CAIT) on Wednesday welcomed the stand taken by DPIIT, Ministry of Commerce whereby they have proposed to the e-commerce companies to display the “country of origin” for new product listings on their platforms by August 1 in compliance with the Legal Metrology ( packaged commodities) Rules, 2017.

CAIT Secretary General Praveen Khandelwal said these e-commerce companies are totally automated and technology-driven and every seller on the platform is well aware of the country of origin of their products. 

“If they really want to comply with the rules, it is a matter of 2-3 days and not 2-3 months which these companies are demanding,” said Khandelwal. “Under no circumstances should the August 1 deadline be extended and even existing product listings should comply with the said deadline.” The CAIT has sought time with Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal to discuss the matter at the earliest.

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