In its suggestions to the Department of Consumer Affairs, the RSS affiliate said there is a general impression that the rules are applicable to all the parties involved in e-commerce, “which is not true”, as the Consumer Protection Act does not apply to the traders and service providers.
“It is, therefore, suggested that this aspect must be clarified by way of clarification by the (consumer affairs) ministry, and the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) must make suitable rules for the protection of traders and service providers who avail services through e-commerce for commercial purposes,” the outfit said.
The SJM said there are many traders and service providers, which are not getting any protection under the law, due to the “inadequate or non-existent” e-commerce laws.
“Small traders on Amazon, Flipkart-Walmart; drivers on Uber, Ola etc.; small restaurants involved in Zomato etc.; hairdressers, carpenters, electricians and others on Urban Clap etc.; and many other workers are subject to severe hardships by these e-commerce giants, having no protection at all against exploitation,” it said.
The SJM termed the provision for compulsory registration of e-commerce entities under the proposed rules as “a welcome step”, saying it will go a long way to regulate the e-commerce giants “for any wrongdoings by them”.
“However, it is suggested, to avoid any hardship to e-commerce entities with a very small consumer base in India, a threshold may be prescribed for compulsory registration,” it said.
This would save the small e-commerce players from “avoidable compliances”, it said and suggested that the definition of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) “may be adopted” to define small e-commerce players in the proposed rules.
The RSS affiliate also sought changes in the wordings of the rules for the registration of e-companies to bring under its ambit even those e-commerce entities that do not set up offices in India but still have “lots of revenue” being generated from the consumers located in the country.
“The DPIIT must also create a monitoring mechanism to identify the defaulter e-commerce entities and must also have an adjudication mechanism for penalising such defaulters,” it said.
The SJM suggested that the rules should provide for capacity building for inspection and enforcement of e-commerce transactions, unfair trade practices, manipulation of prices, search algorithm and other technical aspects of digital transactions with a consumer protection perspective.
“E-courts may be established for the consumers’ grievances redressal,” it said.
The SJM noted that e-commerce companies under the proposed rules are required to appoint those as chief compliance officers, nodal contact persons and resident grievance officers who are residents and citizens of the country.
The RSS affiliate suggested that the concept of “officer who is in default” as included in the Companies Act, 2013 be introduced in the e-commerce rules also, “so that the persons in accordance with whose advice, directions or instructions the e-commerce entities act can be brought to books in case of any contravention under the Act and the e-commerce rules”.