A national e-commerce policy needs to be notified by the Government at the earliest as the absence of a dedicated policy had resulted in fragmented and ineffective regulation and created a strategy vacuum for the sector, per a Parliamentary panel report. 

The committee noted that any further delay in notifying a dedicated policy, which was still at an inter-ministerial consultations stage, could further accentuate the prevailing issues in the fast-paced digital market.

Pro-customer framework

“The e-commerce policy should ensure the protection of consumer rights and privacy through inclusion of pro-customer regulatory framework and institution of a robust grievance redressal mechanism. It is important that anti-counterfeiting and anti-piracy measures are brought forward in the policy along with stringent enforcement mechanism,” according to the report on the ‘Promotion and Regulation of E-Commerce in India’ tabled by the department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce.

The Centre has been working on a draft e-commerce policy for long but the need to balance the conflicting demands and interests of various stakeholders had slowed down the process.

Skill development strategy

The committee also recommended that the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) should outline a specific skill development strategy in the e-commerce policy by gauging the various requirements in the e-commerce value chains.

“Private players and stakeholders in the e-commerce value chain should be lured in for implementation of such strategy. Further, in line with increased employment in e-commerce, measures to promote the welfare and protection of contractual workers should be espoused in the policy,” it said. 

It also proposed framing of suitable social security schemes relating to insurance, working conditions, disability and other benefits by the government. Appropriate labour laws relating to working hours, holidays. minimum pay, etc., for gig and platform workers, should be framed and e-commerce must be mandated to extend these benefits, it suggested.

The committee further recommended that the DPIIT should develop appropriate mechanisms for enforcement of rules related to Intellectual Property Rights in e-commerce space in consultation with the relevant Ministries/Departments.

It observed that the online sale of medicines had not been regulated despite objections and concerns raised by stakeholders, and reiterated its recommendation to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare stressing on the need to notify e-pharmacy rules and formulate comprehensive guidelines with regard to e-pharmacy/e-health platforms.