At a conference on law and technology, organized by ASSOCHAM yesterday, Ashish Chandra, General Counsel at Snapdeal spoke fairly openly about the challenges that ecommerce marketplaces are facing in India. Some notes from his talk, some of it paraphrased: 1. Who regulates? "A few months ago, we read that there will be 9 ministries that might regulate e-commerce. The challenge with that is with Internet companies, the business models have to change every three months. Today if telecom operators or DTH companies have to change prices, they have to go to the regulator and get an approval. If 9 ministries have to regulate ecommerce, this industry will die. The government then said that the consumer affairs ministry will regulate. We have 3-4 consumer cases against us every month, and there is a law regarding compensation for those users. Then the government said that the TRAI will regulate. Are they talking about Net Neutrality of Ecommerce? Then the government said that the Competition Commission of India will regulate ecommerce. How can a watchdog become a regulator? My request is to allow that sector to grow. Why would you overregulate a growing sector? So, what are the regulatory issues? 2. Intermediary Liability: We have a specific mention under the Information Technology Act, which specifically names online marketplaces as a form of intermediary. They are governed more under the safe harbor provision, that if any wrong has been done by a third party, you will not be sent to jail. Only those people who have misused your site have…
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