Amazon India has made it mandatory for sellers on the platform to display the “country of origin” of their product listings by August 10. The process will begin from July 21, and if sellers fail to update their product listings with their country of origin, it could lead to enforcement action and result in a suppression of their listings on Amazon. This information was conveyed to sellers via email, screenshots of which were shared with MediaNama by a representative of traders’ collective All India Online Vendors Association (AIOVA). The body also shared a screenshot of the email on its Twitter handle. We have reached out to Amazon for more details. Entrackr was the first publication to report this.

Sellers were also notified of the change once they logged into their Amazon seller account, where the company explained how it defines country of origin, and how they can reinstate their suppressed listings. According to that communication, which was shared with us by the same AIOVA representative, Amazon defined country of origin as the country from where a product has originated. “If imported, it will likely be a country other than India,” it said. Sellers will also be required to list the contact information of the importer, including their address, contact number, and email ID, in case the country of origin for a particular product isn’t India. The development comes amid heightened border tensions between India and China, and after the Indian government banned 59 ‘Chinese’ apps over national security concerns.

Communication sent to Amazon to sellers on their seller account on the platform. Doc shared with us by an AIOVA representative

Communication sent to Amazon to sellers on their seller account on the platform. Doc shared with us by an AIOVA representative

Amazon India’s email to sellers: “Starting from July 21, 2020, we are introducing “country_of_origin” as a mandatory attribute in addition to a few optional attributes in our category listing templates in accordance with the Legal Metrology Act, 2009,” Amazon India wrote in an email to sellers on July 15, which MediaNama has seen a copy of. “You will be required to provide information for “country of origin” mandatorily for all your new and existing listings…Failure to provide information in the “country of origin” attribute by August 10, 2020 may lead to enforcement action including suppression of your listing,” it added.

Amazon also wrote that such declarations are “required to be provided by you [sellers] under applicable law so that customers get detailed information about your product prior to purchase. Please ensure that the information added by you is accurate and updated at all times, as you will be solely responsible to ensure accuracy”.

Screenshots of the email sent by Amazon India to sellers, shared with us by an AIOVA representative

What are the Legal Metrology rules? The Legal Metrology rules — which came into effect on January 1, 2018 — mandate that the name of the country of origin or manufacture or assembly, in case of imported products, be mentioned on the package, and that e-commerce entities have to ensure mandatory declarations on their platforms.

However, it is unclear why the platform is pushing sellers to display the country of origin now if the rules have already been in place for over two years now. In fact, according to the Economic Times, the government has not set a deadline for e-commerce companies to comply with these rules.

DPIIT had directed e-commerce firms to display country of origin Last month, it was reported that the Department of Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) had, during a meeting, directed e-commerce companies to figure out a way for customers to identify the country of origin for all products being sold on their platforms. 20 companies were present at the meeting including  Amazon, Flipkart, Paytm, and Pepperfry, asked for some days to work out a method for this.

Traders’ body welcomes move: The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), a traders collective which has been a vocal critic of Amazon and Flipkart and has staged several protests against the two, welcomed Amazon’s decision, but in a statement to MediaNama, said that “it is astonishing that for three years, no effort was made by e-commerce companies to implement such a legal binding”. CAIT claimed that it had raised the issue of displaying country of origin on e-commerce platforms with the Commerce Ministry on June 15, following which the Ministry directed sellers on the government’s e-commerce portal, GeM, to display the country of origin alongside product listings.

In line with new draft e-commerce policy: The move is also in line with requirements in a new draft e-commerce policy. As per the draft, the country of origin and value addition done in India need to be specified for imported goods and good exported from India via e-commerce entities. The draft policy also wants access to source code and algorithms to mitigate biases, and access to non-personal data for law enforcement and taxation purposes.

Similar moves in the US: Outside of India, Amazon US will show the seller’s business name and address on their Amazon.com Seller Profile page from September, to help make customers “informed shopping decisions”, the company announced earlier this month. For individuals, the page will show their individual name and address. Sellers were already required to give this information to Amazon, now they have to display it for the customers as well.