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E-commerce sites must state ‘country of origin,’ says Centre

Petition in HC said most products did not have this information

July 23, 2020 03:09 am | Updated 03:09 am IST - NEW DELHI

The Centre told the Delhi High Court on Wednesday that all e-commerce entities, including Amazon, Flipkart, and Snapdeal, have to ensure the mandatory declaration of country of origin of imported products sold on their site.

The Department of Consumer Affairs, in an affidavit, said the laws relating to the issue was enacted under the Legal Metrology Act, 2009 and the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011. Enforcement of the provisions of the Act and Rules rested with the States and UTs governments. “Whenever violations are observed, action is taken by the legal metrology officials of the States/ UTs governments in accordance with the law,” the department said.

The affidavit came in response to a petition filed by advocate Amit Shukla. The High Court had earlier this month issued notices to major e-commerce entities on the contentions raised in the petition.

Mr. Shukla has argued that the economy of the nation would suffer in the event the e-commerce websites continuing to not mention the manufacturing country or country of origin of products on their websites. He said he had made a detailed research of several e-Commerce entities and websites and found that most of them did not mention the country of origin of products. He said his petition was in sync with the recent ‘Vocal for Local’ and ‘Aatmnirbhar’ Bharat push by the government of India.

Responding to the petition, Snapdeal said it functioned as a ‘marketplace-based’ e-commerce model in which it only acted as an ‘intermediary’. Snapdeal said it merely provided its information technology platform to connect third-party sellers with their potential consumers. The other form of e-commerce model was ‘Inventory-based,’ where the entities offered services or goods for sale from their own inventory.

Snapdeal said that it had ensured that a data field pertaining to ‘country of origin’ was specifically available on its system, which may be filled in by a seller when creating a new product listing.

However, a seller could, at his own risk, choose to leave the field blank as Snapdeal had not made it mandatory to enter data in the designated field. This relaxation, Snapdeal explained, was made as the “law does not mandate a disclosure of the ‘country of origin/manufacture/assembly’ separately, in the case of India-manufactured goods.”

Snapdeal contended that in many cases, finished goods sourced from different countries are packed together or assembled in a third country, prior to their shipment into India. It could not be simply presumed that the rules intended that the last country of export alone be declared as the ‘country of origin,’ unless the law was amended or clarified to expressly state so, it argued.

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