COAI asks e-commerce players to stop flouting rules

Chennai: While the e-commerce market it looking at ways to fend off problems that arised with new FDI norms for online retailers, Telecom industry body COAI has sent a letter of notice to entities asking them to stop sale of few products.

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) asked leading e-commerce companies such as Flipkart, Amazon India and Snapdeal to stop selling mobile signal boosters as their sale without a valid licence is a punishable offence.

The Department of Telecommunications had also written to e-commerce companies in 2015 and 2016 asking them to stop sale of products and equipment that require licence but the companies have not stopped their sale.

The letter comes after Amazon started pulling various products from its inventory list.

A letter without love

In a letter to e-commerce players, COAI, whose members include Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio, mentioned mobile signal boosters and repeaters that require licence are being sold on their platforms.

“Thus, it is pertinent to note that possession and sale of such equipment, without obtaining requisite permissions under the (Indian Telegraph) Act and rules framed thereunder constitutes violation of the provisions of the Act and is punishable offence,” director-general, COAI, Rajan S Mathews, said.

The letter was sent separately to Flipkart CEO Kalyan Krishnamurthy, Amazon India country manager Amit Agarwal, Snapdeal CEO Kunal Bahl, CEO Ajit Balakrishnan and Shopclues CEO Sanjay Sethi.

Mathews cited Section 6 of the Act that states: ‘Whoever possesses any wireless transmitter in contravention of the provisions of Sections 3 shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees.’

Pulling products

With new FDI norms for online retailers, Amazon’s Global Store in India has dropped some products from its inventory list. From a peak of six million products before February, there are just about 6,000 products under this entity on Amazon India, according to Marketplace Pulse.

India is the third market after China and Mexico to have such a facility where Indians can buy products from the US directly via the local marketplace.

Consumers can still buy from the US site of Amazon, but that has multiple restrictions over payment methods and overall shopping experience, reports state.

Global Store allows Indians to pay in local currency. The new draft e-commerce policy would throw additional challenges too since it requires that every seller entity must be registered in India.

The e-commerce sector in India is witnessing fast growth supported by the rise in the number of Internet users, growing penetration of smartphones and the swift popularity of social media platforms.

According to a recent Morgan Stanley report, India is adding one Internet user every three seconds and the e-commerce sector in India is estimated to reach US$230 billion by 2028, accounting for 10 per cent of India’s retail.

In response
In response to the letter from COAI, Snapdeal and Amazon, according to the PTI had this to reply –

Snapdeal: As an intermediary, Snapdeal has a robust takedown mechanism in compliance with its legal obligations. COAI’s communication will be acted upon as per due process.

Amazon India: Amazon operates an online marketplace in India. Sellers selling their products through the marketplace are solely responsible for all necessary product compliance and are required to sell products which are legally allowed to be sold in India. Whenever concerns about the listed products get raised, we review the case with the sellers.


We have an org too
The rapidly growing e-Commerce sector in India established its own trade association under the name of TECI – The E-Commerce Council of India.

The founding members of TECI include product and services marketplaces Snapdeal, ShopClues, UrbanClap, Shop101, Flyrobe and Fynd along with social commerce platform Shop101.

The founding members also include digital-first fashion brands like Bewakoof, Breya and Rustorange. Online brands like Mamaearth, Superbottoms and Azah, which focus on specific segments like baby care products and women’s hygiene products are also part of the group that has collaborated to launch TECI.

TECI members, between themselves, account for more than 7.5 Lakh online sellers and service providers.

NT Bureau