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Why isn’t the Indian government probing Amazon’s private label strategies, industry bodies ask

Multiple industry bodies in India call for immediate government intervention following Amazon’s tactics exposed by Reuters.

Last week, Reuters published an investigative report revealing how Amazon India has been systematically copying top-selling products using data that is not available to other sellers and manipulating search results to promote these products over those of competitors.

Sellers on the platform as well as multiple industry bodies in India have long accused the company of doing this, but Amazon executives have repeatedly denied it, even in sworn testimonies and statements to US Congress. However, the Reuters report exposes how such practices “were part of a formal, clandestine strategy at Amazon.” In the aftermath of these revelations, here’s what industry bodies are saying:

We demand immediate CBI investigation: CAIT

Serious offense, needs investigation: Praveen Khandelwal, Secretary-General of Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), called practices highlighted in the Reuters report a “serious offense” and Amazon a “global law offender.” CAIT demands the Indian government to launch an immediate CBI investigation and to confiscate all material evidence, he said.

Take lesson from the US: Referring to the recent letter written by five US lawmakers to Amazon asking the company for an explanation on the Reuters revelations, Khandelwal in multiple tweets thanked the US lawmakers for taking Amazon to task and called upon India’s commerce ministry to take immediate action as well. “We must take lesson from US. Its Judiciary Committee has taken cognisance of Amazon malpractices in India,” he said.

Is Amazon being protected by the government? CAIT also alleged that the government inaction gives strength to the possibility that Amazon has protection from people within the government. “This reinforces the apprehension that somewhere the nefarious influence of Amazon is working and therefore it is continuing its violation of rules business practices at its free will,” CAIT said according to Business Standard. “It’s astonishing that Govt agencies have not taken any cognisance or have asked Reuters to share the papers,” Khandelwal tweeted.

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Amazon eating cake not meant for them: In another tweet, Khandelwal said that the revelations are “yet another proof of cheating” and asked “how long the Indian small manufacturers and traders will have to burn their fingers from Amazon mal-practices” before the authorities wake up. “Amazon is causing a great disadvantage to the small manufacturers. They are eating the cake that is not meant for them,” Khandelwal told Reuters.

CAIT is planning a national yatra on November 15 to protest against the malpractices of Amazon and other foreign-funded companies.

Amazon’s practices are deplorable, needs to stop right now: ADIF

Highly deplorable: The Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF), which represents around 400 Indian startups, said that the new report “brings to light Amazon’s blatant disregard for competition laws, intellectual property rights, and disgraceful predatory practices.” The practice of copying leading Indian brands is “highly deplorable” and the allegations serve as “incriminating evidence” the foundation said. ADIF also called Amazon’s practices “an economic offense of the highest order.”

Makes case for stronger e-commerce rules: “These findings serve as a further fillip for the intent of the Government to introduce reforms in the e-commerce marketplace. The recent draft regulations have been aimed at targeting predatory practices using intermediaries for the protection and benefit of sellers, manufactures, and consumers,” ADIF said referring to the proposed amendments to e-commerce rules.

We need stronger data protection laws: “This development also brings to attention the significance and importance of good data protection laws for the health and prosperity of digital markets,” ADIF added.

Government needs to intervene: ADIF concluded by calling ecosystem stakeholders and the government to intervene to ensure Amazon abides by the laws and for timely action on the part of the regulators.

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A situation where Amazon, or any player for that matter, acts as the powerful online marketplace, seller and collector of data, cannot bode well for the health of the e-commerce market, neither will it be in the interest of the consumers – both in the short term and the long term. This has to stop right now. – ADIF

Ball is now in lawmakers’ court: SJM

Boycott Amazon: Thanking Reuters for exposing the “dirty games” of Amazon, Ashwani Mahajan, co-convenor of Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM), tweeted “I call upon people of this country to #boycottAmazon.”

Why is no one questioning the company? In a follow-up tweet, Mahajan added: “Happy that when Amazon lies, ppl are questioning them in US. In India they have been lying, lying and lying, but no body qns them. Perhaps ₹8456 crores play trick,” referring to the recent bribery allegations.

“Ball is now in lawmakers’ court, both in India and US,” Mahajan added.

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