The inter-disciplinary panel set up by the central government to go into the issues relating to the ecommerce segment held its first meeting in the capital. It is understood that of the issues discussed was the very issue of how to define ecommerce. This panel has the Union Industry Secretary as its head, and the secretaries of Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and Department of Commerce, as its members. There were special invitees from Niti Aayog, Enforcement Directorate, Consumer Affairs department, Reserve Bank of India and the Finance Ministry. Some of the grievances expressed by the stakeholders in the ecommerce sector also reportedly came up for discussion during the meeting of the panel.
Officials were quick to point out that this panel at the bureaucratic level is different from the inter-ministerial committee or task force that has been entrusted with the job of formulating the country’s comprehensive ecommerce policy. Incidentally, that task force has already submitted its draft policy that will govern the ecommerce sector.
Some of the other topics that were taken up by the panel that met under the chairmanship of Ramesh Abhishek, the Union Industry Secretary, included payment mechanisms, ways to control sale of counterfeit products through online platforms, and facilitating logistics for the ecommerce sector. The next meeting of the panel is slated for October.
There are some points of concern raised by the stakeholders in the ecommerce sector and the draft policy that has been made and submitted has gone right up to the PMO and some discussions have been held there as well. One such issue relates to the recommendation in the draft policy that 49% FDI be permitted in the B2C ecommerce sector, where the incumbent will follow an inventory carrying model. The other has to do with payments using RuPay.
Now, coming back to the issue of a common definition for ecommerce. It is learnt the term has different connotations for different entities and there are many such entities: WTO, OECD and UNCTAD and within the Indian context, the ministries of Commerce, Industry, IT and Consumer Affairs.
The draft policy says: “E-commerce may be understood to mean buying, selling, marketing, distribution, or delivery of goods and services through electronic means and digital products”.
This definition may receive further tweaking to include and reflect all forms of activities now carried out online, like selling e-music, leasing of properties or IPR rights and so on.