Government wants place of origin tag by  1  Aug, but online retailers wary

DPIIT officials made it clear that the government is looking to have ‘country of origin’ available for new listings on e-commerce platforms by 1 August

Government wants place of origin tag by  1  Aug, but online retailers wary

The government is keen on mandatory display of ‘country of origin’ on products sold online beginning 1 August, but online retailers do not find the deadline feasible, two e-commerce executives who attended an official meeting said.

After an initial consultation on the matter two weeks ago, the department for promotion of industry and internal trade (DPIIT) held a second meeting on Wednesday, attended by representatives of close to 30 e-commerce companies.

DPIIT officials made it clear that the government is looking to have ‘country of origin’ available for new listings on e-commerce platforms by 1 August, and for older listings by the end of September, the two people cited above said on condition of anonymity.

“We heard the views of the e-commerce players. A date for implementation of the ‘country or origin’ proposal has not been finalized yet. We will consult with the department of consumer affairs before taking a final call as packaging is their domain," a DPIIT official said, requesting anonymity.

Larger companies such as Amazon and Flipkart requested a timeline of three months to execute the proposal. “Amazon said it has lakhs of sellers, and it will be difficult to convince them to mention ‘country of origin’ for every product, asking for a timeline of three months. Flipkart shared the same sentiment, and said it needs to train sellers and rejig its tech platform," said one of the two executives cited above.

Two other individuals from e-commerce firms confirmed Amazon and Flipkart haven’t reached out to sellers yet on the request to mention ‘country of origin’ on listings.

After 20 Indian army personnel were killed last month in the bloodiest clash with Chinese troops in 45 years in Ladakh, India has taken a host of measures to reduce its economic dependency on China, including banning 59 mobile applications including TikTok and prohibiting Chinese companies from railways and road projects. As part of a push towards self-reliance, India is also trying to reduce its $50 billion plus trade deficit with China. Though mandating ‘country of origin’ is not openly targeted against China, government seems to be riding on the growing sentiments against Chinese goods.

Online retailers also brought up challenges for sellers to assign ‘country of origin’ for unbranded products, the legal metrology around which isn’t clear, requesting more time to execute the same.

Some others, including medical marketplace 1MG, along with Tata Croma and Cliq, requested DPIIT to implement the proposal in a graded manner, where after the end of a set timeline, companies can submit a report on the inventory which has ‘country of origin’ mentioned on their platforms.

Beginning January 2018, the government mandated e-commerce firms to print not only the maximum retail price on goods but also information like expiry date and customer care details. E-commerce firms Mint spoke to said even this was executed in a graded manner.