Covid-19 Response: Government Stops The Sale of Non-Essential Items

Ecommerce Action

In a bid to respond to the Covid-19 outbreak, Government has stopped the sale of non-essential items through e-commerce platforms during the ongoing lockdown. Earlier, the government has allowed companies to sell mobile phones, televisions, laptops, refrigerators, and even ready-made garments.

Ajay Bhalla, the Union Home Secretary issued a statement saying that no e-commerce companies are allowed to supply any non-essential commodities. The order mentioned “E-commerce companies. Vehicles used by e-commerce operators will be allowed to ply with necessary permissions” — is excluded from the guidelines.

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However, the April 15 order said that e-commerce platforms have the right to sell and deliver non-essential items to cater to the needs and preferences of the customers. But the order has been changed due to the mounting pressure of the government by the retailers and the increase in the cases of Covid-19. Only essential commodities like pharmaceutical and medical devices can be sold by e-commerce platforms.

In a statement, Praveen Khandelwal of traders’ body CAIT remarked: “The withdrawal of notification indicates that small traders are a priority for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and any decision if taken against the traders will not last long”. The traders’ body has expressed their concern over the issue and had written to PM that such a movie is unfair and unreasonable.

Ankur Pahwa, Partner and National Leader – E-Commerce and Consumer Internet, EY India, stated: “The government’s revision to their earlier position on the supply of non-essential goods via e-commerce is likely a cautious measure, but it does have financial and operational consequences for the e-commerce companies, as also vendors and traders, who were putting plans in place to recommence operations, basis the previous issued guidelines.”

Meanwhile, senior executives of e-commerce industry have remarked that currently most of the orders are associated with essential goods. But as the lockdown has extended, the definition of essential commodities might be different for different people.

The lockdown was first announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24 for 21 days in order to fight the coronavirus pandemic and later extended till May 3. We have no information as to when the Government will allow e-commerce industry to accept orders for non-selling commodities.