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How India handles e-commerce and open network protocols is being called into question

A roundtable on the ONDC digital project highlights all the shortcomings of the draft e-commerce rules that are in the way.

“There's a lack of clarity about what e-commerce regulation is intended to do, and it is looking in the wrong places for where the problems are,” said Vikram Sinha of IDFC Institute, at a media roundtable organised by Chase India to discuss the government's proposed Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC). He added that the draft e-commerce rules need to recognise that pain points exist on the business end of the spectrum instead of the consumer end.  India’s proposed amendments to the e-commerce rules were conceived as a response to antitrust complaints against e-commerce giants like Amazon and Flipkart. The changes include new rules to limit who can sell on marketplace platforms, the establishment of a grievance redressal mechanism, new display and labelling criteria for foreign goods, the prohibition of flash sales, restrictions on promotions, fall-back liability, among other things. But the proposed rules were met with severe criticism from almost all quarters, including from within the government itself. Read: Summary of the proposed amendments to E-Commerce Rules, 2020 “I don't see the regulations address problems like unilateral rewriting of contracts, and customised contracts that are essentially extortionary that businesses face on intermediary platforms. The problem is that when you do not look at these issues then it does not matter if you build an ONDC because you're still going to face market consolidation,” Sinha responded when asked about the shortcomings of the proposed rules.   He was also skeptical about the ability of regulators to extract “algorithmic transparency” needed for enforcement.…

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I cover several beats such as Crypto, Telecom, and OTT at MediaNama. I can be found loitering at my local theatre when I am off work consuming movies by the dozen.

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