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‘E-commerce sites must state country of origin’

Centre tells Delhi High Court law in place, enforcement rests with States/UTs

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 respective sites.

The Department of Consumer Affairs, in an affidavit, said the law relating to the issue was enacted under the Legal Metrology Act, 2009 and the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011.

The department stated that the enforcement of the provisions of the Act and Rules rests with the State and Union Territory governments. “Whenever violations are observed, action is taken by the legal metrology officials of the State/ UT governments in accordance with the law,” it added.

Dent to economy

The affidavit came in response to a petition filed by advocate Amit Shukla who said he had done a detailed research of several e-commerce entities and found that most of them did not mention the country of origin of products offered on sale. He argued that the economy of the nation would suffer if the sites continue the practice.

The court had earlier this month issued notices to major e-commerce entities on the contentions raised in the plea.

Responding to the petition, Snapdeal said it functioned as a “marketplace-based” e-commerce model in which it only acted as an “intermediary” and merely provided its information technology platform to connect third-party sellers with potential consumers.

‘Data field available’

Snapdeal said it had ensured that a data field pertaining to “country of origin” was available on its system, which may be filled in by a seller when creating a new product listing. However, the seller could, at his own risk, choose to leave the field blank as the site 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 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 to 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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