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CCAOI-ISOC Delhi Webinar on the Draft National e-Commerce Policy

The Indian government’s Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade has released a draft of the National e-Commerce Policy for public comments by 29 March 2019. The CCAOI, with support from the Internet Society India Delhi Chapter, organized a webinar to discuss the draft policy on 18 March. The objective of the discussion was to inform various stakeholders of the provisions of the draft policy and highlight issues of concern. Watch the recording here.

The session was moderated by Subhashish Panigrahi and myself. It was attended by over 45 participants from different stakeholder communities across the country. The speakers that participated in the session were Devika Aggarwal from NASSCOM, Ankit Anand from Reliance Jio, Nikhil Pahwa from MediaNama, Parminder Singh from IT for Change, and Dr. Mahesh Uppal from ComFirst (India) Private Limited.

To kick off the webinar, Smitha Krishna Prasad of the Centre for Communication Governance at the National Law University presented an overview of the draft policy, following which the speakers shared their perspectives on the draft policy. Towards the end of the webinar, speakers answered questions from the participants in a lively and interactive Q&A session.

Some of the key issues discussed were on the shortcomings of the draft, such as the ambiguity of terms used in the draft, issues related to ownership and categorization of data, data sharing and data localization, and concerns of undermining user consent in cross-border data sharing. Other issues discussed relate to intellectual property rights, conflicting regulatory frameworks, network effects, and disclosure of source codes.

The key takeaways from the webinar were as follows:

  • There are several ambiguities in the draft policy that need to be addressed so as to provide clarity to businesses and users engaging in e-commerce activities.
  • The draft policy in its present form, contains provisions in conflict with prevailing laws in India and needs to be streamlined with all applicable statutes.
  • Although the policy is an unenforceable document, several of the issues highlighted in it fall under the domain of existing regulatory frameworks and agencies. These regulators could bring into effect the recommendations of the draft policy by issuing appropriate directions. Therefore, the implementation process needs to be clarified.
  • The draft policy must not become a complex document dealing with the intricacies of the conduct of e-commerce operations in India, but should suggest the favorable approaches to e-commerce and provide incentives to businesses to comply with the suggested approaches.