Intensifying protests against Amazon and Flipkart, several traders from across the country staged a day-long hunger strike, led by Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT). Traders demanded the government to take immediate action against not only Amazon and Flipkart but also other e-commerce companies working in transport, logistics, travel, home buying, consumer durables and other sectors.
Traders want the government to ensure e-commerce companies comply with the FDI policy. The other major demands that traders have include an immediate roll-out of a national e-commerce policy, a regulator or ombudsman to regulate e-commerce business and the roll out of a national retail policy, Praveen Khandelwal, Secretary General of CAIT told TNM.
CAIT also alleges that Amazon and Flipkart are indulging in preferential seller system and more than 80% of their sales are made by just their 10-15 preferred sellers since last many years.
Earlier this month, CAIT wrote to Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal urging him to ask both e-commerce giants to either ‘follow the FDI policy in letter and spirit immediately or wind up their business activities from India’.
This came after Goyal said at an event said that every FDI funded e-commerce player in the country has to follow the FDI policy both in letter and spirit and domestic e-commerce companies will have to follow the law of the land so that businesses of small retailers are not destroyed.
CAIT has claimed that e-commerce companies are working with brands and banks in ensuring predatory pricing and deep discounting and has demanded a comprehensive investigation and has said that severe action should be taken not only against the e-commerce players but also against brands and banks.
CAIT has also alleged that these e-commerce companies are causing losses of thousands of crores of rupees of GST revenue by artificial lowering down the prices. And by showing huge losses in their business, they allege that these companies are avoiding Income Tax liability.
“CAIT has urged Union Finance Minister Smt. Nirmala Seetharaman to conduct an investigation on these serious charges of tax avoidance. Under the guise of FDI whatever investment they have received is used for cash burning which is also a serious matter and the CAIT has urged Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal to conduct an investigation into this aspect as also whether there is any violation of Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) or other concerning laws,” CAIT said in a statement.
The trader union has been fighting against these e-commerce players for over a year. In November, they launched a nationwide agitation against Flipkart, Amazon and other e-commerce companies, who it claims are circumventing the law and abusing Press Note 2 of the FDI policy.
The two-month protest, which began on November 13 will continue till January 10, 2020. Praveen Khandelwal told TNM that the hunger strike too, it part of this agitation.
Praveen said that traders have been in talks with Piyush Goyal and his office and are hoping that the government soon takes serious action against Amazon and Flipkart.
“We didn’t receive a written response, but we are in touch with Piyush Goyal and his office, which has assured that govt is analysing issues raised by us and will take action. If it doesnt, the second phase of agitation will be decided at the National Traders Convention to be held from January 6-8, 2020 at New Delhi,” he added.