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New draft e-commerce policy soon to be in the public domain

To enable the Government of India (“Govt”) to have quick and easy access to data flowing on the e-commerce platforms in the country such as Flipkart, Amazon, YouTube, Facebook, etc., the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (“DPIIT”) will soon roll out a new Ecommerce Policy (“Policy”) wherein the regulations on issues such as security, law and order, law enforcement, taxation and safety of individuals are provided in a detailed manner.

Considering the requirement of the society and service providers, it felt necessary to have a definite, clear, and coherent policy to overhaul the issues which were present in the draft national e-commerce policy that was unveiled by the DPIIT in February last year.

Keeping the fast, emerging and growing e-commerce sector into consideration, the purpose of bringing the Policy into place is two-fold. It firstly seeks to protect and guard the safety of the country and its citizens, by empowering the government to review, investigate and take action against any e-commerce activity that threatens the country’s security and at the same time endeavours to ensure that the growth of the sector is not halted. In doing so, it regulates the data that is stored by such e-commerce platforms and thereby restricts the information that can be used, stored, transferred, processed and analyzed by such platforms.

Some of the key takeaways from the new proposed Policy are as follows:-

  • The e-commerce platforms that will require mirroring or local storage of data shall be defined.
  • Cross-border flow of information pertaining to defence, medical records, biological records, cartographic data and genome mapping without appropriate authorisation shall be prohibited.
  • Online sellers that are currently offline shall be supported with computerization and digital payment enablement.
  • Users under the age of 18 years who are unable to enter into valid contracts with their e-commerce service providers shall be protected.
  • Payments made through tokens created by foreign e-commerce entities such as those providing live video streaming services will have to be channeled through the Liberalized Remittance Scheme (LRS), prepaid wallets or online payment gateways authorised by the Reserve Bank of India.
  • The definition of e-commerce will now include buying, selling, marketing, distribution or providing access to goods, including digital products or services through any electronic network for a price. This can be business to consumer (B2C), business to business (B2B), e-commerce marketplaces, internet-based consumer-facing content platforms, app-based e-commerce, internet of things (IoT), connected device-based services and a combination of any of these.