Draft e-commerce policy: DPIIT to work on inter-ministerial inputs

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on September 01, 2020 Published on September 01, 2020

The draft attempts to define e-commerce and suggest legislation for fair competition between players   -  iStockphoto

A number of changes and additions have been suggested by several Ministries, Depts

The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) is not yet ready to put up the second draft of the national e-commerce policy for public consultation as it has received some suggestions for changes and additions from different Ministries and Departments which it will attempt to incorporate, a government official said.

“The DPIIT recently gave a presentation to a group of Ministers, Secretaries and senior officials from key Ministries on the draft e-commerce policy it had prepared. A number of suggestions on the scope of the policy and various nuances such as the role of the regulator and protection of consumer data were made by the participants. The DPIIT will now have to work on it,” the official said.

Ministries and Departments such as Electronics, IT and Technology (MeiTY), Corporate Affairs, Finance, Agriculture & Food Processing, and Commerce are all interested in the e-commerce policy as it could have significance for policies in their domain.

Huge scope

The scope of the draft policy on e-commerce, revealed in unofficial leaks in July this year before finalisation, is huge. It attempts to define e-commerce, suggest legislation for fair competition between players and consumer protection, and handling of e-commerce-related data issues. It seeks to both promote e-commerce as well as ensure legal compliance by companies including giants such as Amazon, Flipkart (owned by Walmart) and Google by bringing in more clarity.

Although the draft states that data governance will remain in the domain of the Personal Data Protection Bill and the Non-Personal Data Committee that the MeiTY is in charge of, there are possibilities of an overlap.

On handling of data, the draft under discussion suggests that certain types of data may need mirroring or localisation on both personal and non-personal data governance. The government, in consultation with relevant stakeholders, will define the categories of e-commerce that would require mirroring or localisation.

It also gives the right to the government to enforce measures to mandate that information related to activities in India (including data of Indians) is stored only in India. For data which can be stored/ mirrored abroad, the companies will be subject to comprehensive periodic audit, and such audits would be carried out by an Indian entity only.

To ensure fair competition, the draft suggests that the government can seek disclosure of source code and algorithms for e-commerce to ensure that there are no biases and there’s no discrimination due to digitally induced biases.

The first draft for an e-commerce policy attempted by the DPIIT last year had to be reworked as its suggestions on checking cross-border data flow and a number of other restrictions proposed were opposed by many industry players.

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Published on September 01, 2020
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