Pricing — a prime complaint of domestic retailers — is set to be the focus, with the government considering an annual review of discounts given by e-marketplaces.
The initial draft of the policy had proposed a sunset clause for predatory pricing that included zero-payment offers, flash sales and unlimited offers. It had also sought to define these practices and set fixed norms for each but despite multiple inter-ministerial consultations, work on this front has moved slowly. Officials say the new policy will definitely put a cap on pricing and penalties will be outlined for transgressors. Information about pricing may also need to be submitted in advance.
The new policy could make it difficult for a lot of e-commerce firms to continue with their current business models, which many allege are distorting market dynamics.
Crucially, the new draft seeks not to incentivise foreign investment in the sectors, instead pushing to reward small retailers that put their goods on the digital arena. The government is also keen to work on a scheme to help traders migrate and integrate their businesses on digital platforms, sources said. As a result, the Confederation of All India Traders is set to be invited to all official stakeholder consultations which have so far included only online players.
The last time a draft of the policy went public was in February 2019 when it faced heat from companies and civil society alike. While Indian businesses argued the interests of domestic businesses were not protected sufficiently, consumer groups said it was heavily tilted in favour of players such as Ola, MakeMytrip and Paytm
(all funded by marquee foreign investors), rather than consumers and small businesses.
One of the most contentious issues in the draft was that of potential custom duties on electronic transmissions.
Currently, there is a temporary moratorium on putting custom duties on electronic transmissions which is enforced by the World Trade Organization. But the government had earlier said India reserves the right to tax online retail.
Now, sources say the government is unlikely to change its earlier position on the issue.