Supply of non-essential goods by e-commerce companies will remain prohibited during the lockdown period, the government said on Sunday. Earlier the Ministry of Home Affairs did not explicitly exclude the supply of non-essential items by online sellers in its list of revised guidelines.
The government had earlier said that the vehicles used by e-commerce operators would be allowed to ply with necessary permissions. The guidelines did not specify that e-commerce companies would only be allowed to deliver essential goods -- implying that they would be able to deliver non-essential goods as well. The new guidelines issued on Sunday stated that that particular clause would be excluded from the original set of regulations.
Following the original guidelines, e-commerce companies such as Amazon and Flipkart sought clarity on items that could be sold through these platforms. In the first phase of lockdown between March 24 to April 14, the government had only allowed delivery of essential goods, including food, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment through these platforms.
In fact, e-commerce sites such as Flipkart and Amazon had already started preparing to increase delivery after April 20. According to the sources that Business Today spoke to, Amazon acquired permission to resume delivery of non-essential goods in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Goa. Flipkart had acquired permission from Odisha. The e-commerce firms were, albeit, facing logistical challenges.
Praveen Khandelwal, Secretary-General of the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), welcomed the revised guidelines and said, "CAIT demolished sinister plan of E Commerce Companies to trade in non essential commodities. Accepting the objection of CAIT, the MHA excluded the permission granted earlier and now e-commerce can trade only in essential commodities. Thanks to Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister, Rajnath Singh & Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal."
Meanwhile, a sharp fall in FMCG sales was recorded in the last week of March when the coronavirus lockdown started, Nielsen India data showed. The majority of retail channels except modern trade took a hard hit in the period due to the lockdown. The traditional trade, e-commerce and cash and carry saw a steep plunge in sales, it added. The only trade category that posted six percent growth in the period was modern trade.
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