Online delivery of essential items is permitted in Maharashtra and other states where curbs are imposed (Representative image: Shutterstock)
The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) on April 27 wrote to Union Minister for Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal seeking action against e-commerce giants Flipkart and Amazon for "supplying non-essential items" amid the COVID-19 restrictions imposed by several states.
"Amazon and Flipkart are making illegitimate financial gains by supplying non-essential items which have been strictly prohibited by many state administrations due to ongoing lockdowns to prevent the spread of COVID-19," the traders' body stated in its letter to Goyal.
Amidst the raging pandemic, the foreign e-commerce companies are trying to "capture the market share from small traders by defining every item as essential including mobile phones and accessories," the CAIT alleged.
On the other hand, the small traders "would be put behind the bars" if they sell items which have been categorised as non-essential, it added.
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The CAIT, further marking its angst, said that the "government is closing its eyes towards all violations" by the e-commerce companies as they are "larger than life corporations".
The letter by the traders' body to Goyal comes days after a number of state governments imposed lockdown-like curbs, providing only a four-to-five-hour window to shops selling essential items including groceries. The non-essential shops and establishments have been asked to completely remain shut.
The e-commerce activities are allowed throughout the day in most of the states, but are restricted to only essential deliveries.
The CAIT, apart from accusing Flipkart and Amazon of delivering non-essential items amidst the curbs, has also accused both the companies of violating the inventory control policy.
There is an "urgent need" to come out with clarity on the FDI policy in relation to the inventory control by foreign e-commerce companies, the traders' body requested Goyal.
"It is established beyond doubt how Amazon and Flipkart control the few 'preferred' sellers that make most of the sales on their marketplace platforms," it said, adding that "the FDI Policy has always prohibited control by foreign marketplace e-commerce entities over inventory (and prices) to protect the fabric of the retail industry but these entities, without any regard for law, business or people, have flouted every rule in the book."