Exclusive: Reworked draft ecommerce policy on anvil with focus on Aatmanirbhar Bharat

Exclusive: Reworked draft ecommerce policy on anvil with focus on Aatmanirbhar Bharat
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23 Nov, 2020

The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) is set to seek stakeholder consultation on the reworked draft of the ecommerce policy by the end of the calendar year, people in the know told TechCircle. 

The draft, expected to follow the National Retail Trade Policy, recommends that all issues and legislation related to ecommerce be addressed by a single regulator, stakeholders involved in the discussion said, on the condition of anonymity. 

With a focus on the Aatmanirbhar Bharat initiative, the new draft looks to offer privileges to domestic ecommerce companies to compete against foreign players. 

The new draft also mandates that community data collected by IoT devices in public spaces, as well as data generated by users on ecommerce platforms, social media and search engines be stored exclusively in India, the sources said. Ecommerce entities, they said, will have a sunset period of two years to comply with the data localisation norms. 

However, startups meeting certain criteria will be exempt from mandates on the cross-border flow of data, a person involved in the discussions said, without specifying the conditions. 

The DPIIT, which presented an earlier version of the draft based on the inputs of multiple ministries and departments in September, will consult the government departments again to seek additional inputs on the policy, the sources said. 

“There was also a discussion to include OTT streaming players under the broad definition of ecommerce entities,” one of the sources quoted earlier, said.

DPIIT did not respond to TechCircle’s request for comment till the time of publishing this report. 

The DPIIT first made the draft ecommerce policy public in February 2019, followed by invitation for responses from stakeholders. The initial draft was, however, taken back to the drawing board due to objections on the clause for data storage and cross-border data flow. The user data mandate was moved to the Personal Data Protection Bill -- it was recently discussed by the Joint Parliamentary Committee, which is likely to submit its report soon. 

An expert panel constituted by the government on Non-Personal Data also submitted its draft report in July and sought stakeholder feedback. This is likely to have a bearing on the guidelines for storage of business data by ecommerce entities in the country.