The Centre is likely to give a longer time-frame to e-commerce companies to display ‘country of origin’ for products already listed by sellers on their portals, but it will not exempt such items from the requirement, a government official has said. For new products that get displayed on online retail platforms, however, the time given to mandatorily start displaying the country of origin may be shorter, the official told BusinessLine.
“The timelines that e-commerce companies would be comfortable with for displaying country of origin for products sold on their platforms will be discussed in a second meeting between industry representatives and the government likely this week,” the official said. The meeting could take place on July 8.
The government wants e-commerce companies to display the country of origin for items sold on their platforms to enable consumers to make informed choices. With anti-China feelings running high among certain section of buyers because of the on-going border tension, there is a feeling that many may reject items coming from China.
Long time to update
In the first meeting between the e-commerce companies and the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) on June 25, the e-tailers told the government that while they were ready to comply with the requirement of displaying ‘country of origin’ it would be difficult to do so for items already listed on the platform. For large players like Flipkart and Amazon, the items listed run into thousands and it would take a lot of time to update them with information on the countries they originate from.
“We understand that it might take a long time for existing products to be updated with a country of origin but it can be surely done. Sellers on the Government e-Market platform have started doing so already,” the official said. Some e-commerce companies are also worried that displaying the ‘country of origin’ for the stocks that they hold may result in the items not getting sold. With Covid-19 disruptions hurting business, this could be an additional blow.
On the issue of how the ‘country of origin’ is to be defined and whether sellers will also have to account for the inputs sourced from a foreign country used in their products, the official said that there was already an established system for this. GeM, the online procurement platform for government bodies, which has made it compulsory for new items to have the country of origin mentioned, has also enabled a provision for the indication of the percentage of local content in products. According to traders’ body CAIT, which is supporting a ‘boycott Chinese goods’ campaign, about 70 percent of items sold on major e-commerce platforms in India were of Chinese origin.