Govt sends notice to Amazon, Flipkart for not showing country of origin


Not displaying the mandatory information, including country of origin, on products sold on their platforms in India, draws government’s attention.

The government on Friday issued notices to Amazon, Flipkart and other e-commerce firms for not mandatorily displaying information, including country of origin, on products sold on their platforms in India.

The development comes at a time when Amazon and Flipkart are hosting their biggest festive sale events ‘Great Indian Festival’ and ‘Big Billion Days’ this week and are expecting a massive surge in demand for products across the country due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The notice dated October 16, 2020, has been sent by the department of consumer affairs, ministry of consumer affairs, food and public distribution. The firms have been asked to reply to the notices and explain the reasons for non-compliance within 15 days.

“Otherwise action should be initiated against you with the available documents as per provisions of Act and Rules,” said the notice, seen by Business Standard.

The letter said that it has come to the notice of the department of consumer affairs that some of the e-commerce entities are not displaying the mandatory declarations as required under the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules of 2011.

It said registration of manufacturers, packers and importers of pre-packaged commodities is mandatory. Thus every individual who does this for sale is required to be registered with the director or controller of legal metrology.

The letter said that in the marketplace model of e-commerce, responsibility for the correctness of the declarations lies with the manufacturer, seller, dealer or importer.

Amazon and Flipkart did not immediately respond to queries on the matter.

This development has come amid a growing clamour for the boycott of Chinese products in India after the border-standoff between the two countries, combined with the government’s push for Aatmanirbhar Bharat.

“Neither sellers nor e-commerce platforms will be ever able to comply with country of origin information display unless the government makes it mandatory to display PDP (principal display panel image on e-commerce sites,” said Sachin Taparia, founder and chairman, LocalCircles, the community-led social media engagement platform.

“The warehouse personnel in warding the product do not have the capability to understand and load country of origin information but they can take a picture of PDP and upload,” he added.

The ‘principal display panel’ (PDP) is part of a product label that carries all the information about the item, including country of origin and net contents.

Experts said that the new rules brought by the government for the sellers to display ‘country of origin’ is a big challenge, and the information will not be accurate. This is a huge task which includes gathering data and feeding it to e-commerce marketplaces.

There are a total of over 600 million products listed on just four platforms, which include Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal and Paytm. Amazon and Flipkart work with lakhs of sellers, artisans, weavers, and craftsmen across the country.

The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), which represents 70 million traders, said its fight against e-commerce companies for “indulging into malpractices” and “defying various laws” brought results after the Central Government issued these notices.

“This step of the government indicates its strong will to put the house in order,” said CAIT secretary general Praveen Khandelwal. “And non-compliance of laws will not be tolerated any further,” he alleged.

Khandelwal asked the government to immediately investigate the festive sales of both Amazon and Flipkart. He alleged that no product is in compliance with the obligation of the country of origin.

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