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CAIT proposes setting up a unified cyber regulator to look into e-commerce issues

The traders’ body reiterated that malpractices by foreign-funded companies are still a cause for concern.

The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) urged the Indian government to establish a unified cyber regulator to tackle issues related to e-commerce, in a letter to Union Minister for Commerce Piyush Goyal on February 28. Claiming that India’s regulatory architecture has not evolved properly over time, CAIT said that this was causing friction between companies and regulators.

In a recent trade conference, CAIT along with 152 trade leaders passed a resolution calling upon Goyal to roll out an e-commerce policy. It has also sent a similar letter to Union Minister for Electronics & IT Ashwini Vaishnaw.

The unified cyber regulatory authority should regulate and monitor not only e-commerce trade but also issues incidental to e-commerce, the traders association said, while recommending that the authority look into areas such as —

  • Data
  • Use and adoption of technology
  • Online behaviour
  • Consumer welfare

It also suggested that the authority should be supported by a specialised investigatory and adjudicatory mechanism.

This new demand comes after the government proposed amendments to the E-Commerce Rules last June in response to repeated antitrust complaints against e-commerce giants Amazon and Flipkart. However, it appears that the government is yet to finalise the proposed rules and is still reviewing and soliciting feedback from concerned stakeholders.

What are the gaps in India’s regulatory architecture?

“India has a legacy regulatory architecture across sectors wherein the subject-matter jurisdiction of each such regulator has evolved over time in a fragmented manner to address present concerns. This has left a significant portion of emerging technologies, products, services, online behaviour, business models, and practices to operate in a regulatory vacuum…” — CAIT

In its letter to Goyal, CAIT made these salient points —

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Understanding of digital economy: CAIT said that the redressal of the issues that are arising from the ‘regulatory vaccum’ requires a ‘nuanced understanding and technical evaluation of various elements of the digital economy, including data, consumer behaviour, emerging technologies, etc., all of which serve as a building block for the digital ecosystem’.

Govt unable to capture risks associated with a product: CAIT said that the fragmented regulatory architecture was responsible for the government failing to ‘fully and holistically capture the risks associated with any product, service, business model and/or business practice in the digital ecosystem and respond to it in a speedy manner’.

Continued malpractices by e-commerce giants: CAIT, while reasoning the need for a cyber regulatory authority, said that traders at the conference expressed concern over ‘continuous mal-practices and violation of laws’ and rules by various foreign-funded companies in every sector of trade and services despite several warnings.

Similar regulator was proposed for financial sector in 2013

The resolution also referred to a similar unified regulator which was proposed in 2013 for the financial sector in India by the Financial Sector Legislative Reforms Commission, CAIT said.

“The French Digital Council, United Kingdom’s Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation; and Singapore’s Info-communications Media Development Authority may serve as a useful reference in establishing such a unified, dedicated, and expert architecture for the digital ecosystem,” recommended the trade body.

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Among other subjects, I cover the increasing usage of emerging technologies, especially for surveillance in India

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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