Even as the government is yet to issue clear guidelines mandating private e-commerce companies to display a country of origin tag along with products listed on these platforms, Walmart-owned online marketplace Flipkart has started displaying information such as country of origin, details of manufacturer and importer for select products in the electronics and fashion retail segment on a trial basis. A senior official at the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) said that the government was working on finalising the guidelines and will convey the same along with a stipulated deadline within the next fortnight.
“There are certain products for which this information was already available, and for whichever products we could, we have started displaying the country of origin. On product pages, information bombardment is never a good idea. We have to keep the attention of the user on the product and its visual appeal rather than the peripheral details. More information would mean heavy web pages, which can be problematic,” a Flipkart executive told The Indian Express.
A cursory check of products listed on Amazon India showed that the platform has not started displaying the information yet. The Flipkart executive pointed out that the company would wait till more guidelines are issued to expand the changes to other products once it is clear what other details, if any, are to be also displayed on the marketplace.
“Some legal issues that are being examined by the department,” the DPIIT official cited above said, when asked about the timeline of issuance of guidelines to online retailers. This comes two days after senior officials of the DPIIT met executives of several online retailers Wednesday over video-conferencing for the second time in as many weeks.
Meanwhile, other e-commerce companies are of the view that while in technical terms, there will be no challenge for them to implement the changes, collection and verification of country of origin information will be a bottleneck for which online retailers have already started approaching their sellers.
“Technically, we are ready to go live with this but we first need to collect and verify the data provided by our sellers. It is the sellers on whom we depend for accurate information about the products that they list on the marketplace. This seems difficult to push through with the urgency that the government is indicating,” a senior executive at a large online marketplace said. The executive also said that while the company awaited clear guidelines from the government, it had already started approaching its sellers to provide accurate details about the country of origin of its products.
Amazon India and Flipkart did not respond to mails sent by The Indian Express asking by when did they plan to implement the government’s proposal.
The decision to ask for the country of origin of products comes amidst the Centre’s “Aatmanirbhar Bharat” campaign, to promote locally produced goods. It also follows the Commerce Ministry’s announcement that sellers on the government’s e-marketplace (GeM Portal) will mandatorily have to disclose the country of origin for products. According to a DPIIT official, there will be no prohibition or restriction on marketplaces to sell items produced outside India, and the decision to display the country of origin along with other information about the product was to “help the customer know whether the product was made in India”.
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