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E-commerce firms, traders differ over essential goods definition

Meenakshi Verma Ambwani New Delhi | Updated on April 15, 2021

Broadening the definition of essential goods will create an uneven level playing field, claims CAIT

The definition of what constitutes essential goods has yet again become a bone of contention between e-commerce players and offline traders especially in Maharashtra where Covid restrictions came into effect from Wednesday night.

E-commerce players have been urging authorities to broaden the definition of “essential goods” and allow delivery of products in categories such as consumer durables, electronics, smartphones and products supporting work from home in States that are imposing restrictions including mini-lockdowns or partial lockdowns.

Also read: Stricter restrictions in Maharashtra from April 14

Kunal Bahl, Co-founder and CEO, Snapdeal tweeted, “At a time when e-Comm can ensure safe delivery of all type of goods with testing protocols being followed by delivery fleets, it is critical that we don’t see a domino effect like last year of States restricting categories of goods that consumers can buy online.”

Uneven level playing field

At the same time, Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) has said that this will create an “uneven level playing field” as shops will remain shut for compliance with various restrictions but companies will be allowed to sell goods through e-commerce.

CAIT has shot -off letters to Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal,Udhav Thackeray, CM of Maharashtra, Yogi Adityanath, CM of UP, Shivraj Singh Chauhan, Madhya Pradesh CM, Ashok Gahlot, Rajasthan CM and Chief Ministers of all States on this issue.

Also read: Maharashtra shutdown: Retailers, traders fear closure of non-essential shops will cripple industry

Praveen Khandelwal, Secretary General, CAIT said, “ Few of the prominent players in e-commerce are trying to dislodge the offline traders from the market by asking permission for selling non essentials through e-commerce in different States. It will be unfair if the e-commerce players are allowed to deliver all kinds of goods whereas brick and mortar retailers are allowed to deal only with essential commodities. This will create imbalance in the level playing field and give rise to conflicts and it will be a grave injustice to the traders of India .”

Khandelwal said that if ecommerce players are allowed to sell non-essential goods then keeping a parity, the traders in physical markets should also be allowed to operate their business activities pertaining to non-essential goods.

Published on April 15, 2021

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