After trying to avoid Indian duties by sending goods as ‘gifts’, Chinese e-commerce firms are now trying to do so by undervaluing products on their invoices, the Economic Times reported. An unnamed senior excise official in Mumbai told the newspaper that the price printed on the invoice can sometimes be half the price displayed on the company’s website. The report said companies such as AliExpress, Club Factory and Shein were evading duties using the Courier Bill of Entry, or CBE-13, which allows the import of goods valued at up to Rs 1 lakh.

By using the gifting route, Chinese companies had earlier sought to exploit an exemption on the import of gift items worth up to Rs 5,000. But in January, the government said it was considering removing this exemption or limiting the benefit to a single consignor to prevent firms from misusing it, PTI reported. It was also considering a limit on the number of such consignments to four per person per year.

Swadeshi Jagran Manch’s campaign against Chinese e-commerce firms

In February the Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asking that the government create barriers for Chinese companies operating in India. Chinese companies should also not be allowed to log Indian user data, SJM said, because China had refused to designate Masood Azhar as a global terrorist after an attack by Azhar’s Jaish-e-Mohammad killed more than 40 Indian soldiers in Pulwama, Kashmir.

The SJM said that Chinese companies were profiting from Indian customers and that India should not support China’s economic growth as it “supports such terrorists”. It also raised concerns about the host of Chinese social media and ecommerce companies that had Indian users. The SJM said that India should “curtail the operations” of Chinese companies in India to enforce national security.

‘2 lakh orders a day’

In December 2018, SJM’s research had found that Indian users were placing over 2 lakh orders on Chinese e-commerce websites every day. It added that these companies were delivering via courier and postal gift shipments, violating Indian laws related to payment gateways, custom duties and GST, and harming the Indian MSME trade market.

It said that China was promoting its own small industry through subsidised delivery via China Post. It said that since these companies were not registered in India, there was no grievance redressal mechanism and that there was a risk of “hazardous, prohibited, unsafe or substandard goods arriving in India”.