New Delhi: Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal Tuesday attacked e-commerce giants in Parliament, stressing that they are wielding influence to hurt domestic small businesses, traders and even consumers in the long run.
Goyal’s comments came a day after the Supreme Court refused to halt the probe initiated by the Competition Commission of India (CCI) against Amazon and Flipkart for alleged anti-competitive practices.
Speaking about the effect of e-commerce companies on the Indian market, the minister said around 6 crore small shops, related to retail business and employing almost 12 crore people, are being threatened now.
Noting that these companies wield a lot of power due to capital, he said they were initially allowed in the country just to serve as an agency between two business entities in the country and not disturb the balance of competition in the market.
“Big companies wield a lot of power owing to large amounts of money with them, they are trying their best to maintain their free will in the e-commerce market. To hurt our small business and traders. And after a while, it causes harm to our consumers in the long term,” said the minister.
The Union minister made the comments while answering a question from MPs Chinta Anuradha and Sushil Kumar Singh during the Lok Sabha’s Question Hour Tuesday, adding that the Narendra Modi government is taking remedial measures, including fixing liability.
‘Quit India’ reference
According to the minister, it has been found that these e-commerce companies have been, over time, using legal tricks to provide people with cheap products for a brief period. In the long term, as the competition and small owners shut shop, the domination of these e-commerce companies will be incomparable, he said.
With such domination, the consumers of the country will be forced to buy expensive goods from these e-commerce companies, the minister added.
He also informed Parliament that both the CCI and the Enforcement Directorate are carrying out investigations against these e-commerce companies.
He referred to the SC decision against firms such as Amazon and Flipkart and said: “These companies tried even with their legal tricks to halt the investigation against them but it’s with extreme pleasure that I inform you that on the anniversary of ‘Quit India Movement’, Supreme Court has quashed their plea. The apex court decided that CCI should investigate them and the fraudulent and unfair trade practices used by the companies as informed by the government and small shopkeepers to CCI.”
‘Spreading area of dominance’
Expressing concern over these companies’ wide effect on the market in India and across the world, Piyush Goyal said, “This is a matter of not just national but also of international concern as these mighty technological companies through their big e-commerce outlets are spreading their area of dominance across the globe through their economic and capital prowess.”
He added: “With their dominance, these entities are wiping out small shops which is not only a concern in India but across the world.”
Goyal said even in the US, the small shops, which used to operate at just the local level and were connected with people, have all been abolished.
“Under the guidance of PM Modi, the Government of India has taken strict measures to avoid this,” he said.
Speaking about the upcoming changes in the Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020, the minister informed the House that the government is fixing liability, “primary on sellers and secondary on e-commerce platforms”.
“There will be a grievance cell and every e-commerce company will have to keep a compliance officer responsible for consumer concern redressal, just how my colleague Ravi Shankar Prasad made it mandatory for IT companies, so that no one can escape after causing grievances to consumers,” he added.
(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)