Nirmala Sitharaman, the Indian minister of state for commerce has industry has this week said that the government has not yet reached a decision as to whether it will be setting up a central regulatory body to oversee and monitor ecommerce companies. Her comment comes in response to queries raised by the government opposition following representations made to them by representatives of the All India Online Vendors Association (AIOVA).
“Ecommerce activities are governed by a number of Regulations Acts,” said Sitharaman. She added that, “no decision has been taken by the government for setting up a regulator for ecommerce.”
Later, responding to a related question, the minister also acknowledged that the government had received communication from the All India Online Vendors Association to resolve issues related to payment settlement for online sellers.
The AIOVA was disappointed with the response saying that “The minister is nowhere mentioning that vendors also require similar support which is being given to the consumers. Our association has laid out multiple representations in media, to ministry, DIPP, RBI and Niti Aayog.”
The issues that the All India Online Vendors Association are complaining about were highlighted for the first time last month when they presented a petition to the government that alleged that ecommerce firms including Flipkart, Amazon, and Snapdeal have been violating existing marketplace rules of government. The petition went on to demand that steps should be taken by the Indian government to protect both online sellers and buyers in the years to come. The petition states:
“Even today, the marketplaces are openly violating these rules and there is no enforcement from the government. We require special tribunals to take up sellers’ issues the way consumer courts, electricity tribunals, debt recovery tribunals and others have been set up.”
Amongst the grievances and issues that the AIOVA have that they would like an ecommerce regulatory body to deal with include:
- A grievance cell for sellers
- A competitive market for all
- The prevention of cartelisation
- The prevention of monopolies
- The creation of accounting standards
- The creation of auditing standards
- Disclosure norms to prevent scams
Most of these stem from the fact that they believe that they as small sellers are being treated unfairly by marketplaces who they allege favour consumers and larger online retailers. Although only formed relatively recently, the All India Online Vendors Association has been very active over the past twelve months and have been putting their members views across on a number of subjects. Most recently, they wrote to the Indian government about the number of outstanding dues and goods in transit or refunds from Snapdeal.