Govt reverses order to supply of non-essential products by e-commerce companies; Industry welcomes the decision

The supply of non-essential goods will remain prohibited during the countrywide lockdown; as Ministry of Home Affairs issued the orders, industry welcomes the step.

   
coronavirus e-commerce

As per news reports, the government reversing its own order on Sunday prohibited e-commerce platforms from selling non-essential items during the lockdown, four days after allowing the companies to sell mobile phones, refrigerators and ready-made garments.

Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla issued an order excluding the non-essential items from sale by the e-commerce companies from the consolidated revised guidelines, which listed the exemption given to the services and people from the purview of the lockdown.

The order said the following clause — “E-commerce companies. Vehicles used by e-commerce operators will be allowed to ply with necessary permissions” — is excluded from the guidelines.

The previous order had said such items were allowed for sale through e-commerce platforms from April 20. Political parties along with various industry bodies were opposing this decision demanding to stop e-commerce companies selling the non-essential products in the crisis.

The Union Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal welcomed the decision saying that the move will create a level playing field for the small retailers. Meanwhile Industry bodies are also reacting positively on prohibiting the sales of no-essential items in times of lockdown.

The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) welcoming the development reacts, “CAIT demolished a sinister plan of e-commerce companies to trade in non-essential commodities. Accepting the objection of CAIT, the MHA excluded the permission granted earlier and now e-commerce can only trade in essential commodities.” Said CAIT Secretary-General Praveen Khandelwal.

CAIT Secretary-General Praveen Khandelwal

On the other hand, Kumar Rajagopalan, CEO of Retailers Association of India believes that in the lockdown period all types of retailers should be allowed to operate with implementing the rules for direct customer delivery.

He further added, “as RAI, we believe that to fulfill consumer needs in these trying times, rules for direct customer delivery need to be broad-based and all types of retailers including neighborhood stores should be allowed to operate. He also said that this will allow retailers to support smooth implementation of social distancing norms, through contactless delivery, strict hygiene and safety standards, for such work from home essentials as mobiles, laptops, infant garments & household supplies.”

“Neighborhood stores and  Large essential products chain retailers have done a great service to the nation thus far & widening of the essential products categories will help us support Govt’s steps to ensure the safety of its people while also enabling movement of goods required for economic activity,” he added.

According to the 6th Economic Census, retail trade is the most dominant economic activity other than agriculture sector, factoring for 35.41 per cent of the total. While the sector accounts for the one-fifth of total employment in India and gives employment to around 2.72 crores of families.

According to industry experts while lockdown is in force, government allowing e-commerce companies to deliver non-essential goods from April 20 was unjust.

The step may have discouraged 40 lakh traders dealing in essential commodities in the country in the COVID-19 Lockdown period while their main competitors are open and have been allowed to sell non-essential products online.

As most of the retail counters are locked down for the last month, e-commerce selling non-essentials would have created an imbalance in the traders’ community and their interests.