Amazon Canada might have removed the offensive product — doormat bearing the Indian tricolour — from its listings but it must go the whole hog and apologise to India for the infra dig heaped on Indians who wear their National Flag and nationalism on their sleeves.
The manufacturer, XLYL, may be one of the thousands of suppliers using the Amazon Canada portal, but that does not mean the e-commerce giant should be allowed to wash its hands of the stinking mentality of its supplier. Earlier, images of Indian gods were emblazoned on doormats sold by a supplier on the Amazon US portal. One wonders whether the offender then was the same XLYL. Amazon would do well to investigate the antecedents of such India-phobes and rein in them. The fig leaf of a 'marketplace model' should not be used as a cover by e-commerce portals to escape responsibility.
It is not surprising that the mischief maker is insulting India, not from India but from abroad, even though it must be conceded that virtual world has no physical borders. Left liberals should not instinctively spring to the defence of such renegade firms that delight in slighting India from foreign soils. The pusillanimous and ignoble firm XLYL has chosen the Canadian platform and not directly taken liberties with Indian sentiments fearing a more direct reprisal from Indians.
Be that as it may, the issue brings to fore more than ever before the appropriateness of the marketplace model, most of the e-commerce giants seem to embrace and adopt. Their glib assertion is they are mere facilitators providing a robust online platform for sellers and buyers to come together and consummate their deals. It is baffling that our government vide DIPP Press Note 3 (2016 series) has virtually capitulated to the e-commerce giants with deep pockets when one expected it to toughen the regulations so as to make them more accountable.
The e-commerce portal is not responsible for quality of the product.
The e-commerce portal is not responsible for consumer satisfaction.
The e-commerce portal is not responsible for IPR violations of the sellers using its platform.
There are a few seemingly tough conditions though — no one seller should predominate on the portal by accounting for more than 25 percent of the sale done through the portal. The e-commerce portal should not decide the price of the products sold online through its portal.
It is time the world order is changed. While we can only plead with other nations, our own government can lead by example by making e-commerce sites responsible for the acts of omissions and commissions of the sellers including tax misdemeanours and intellectual property rights violations. Respecting the national and religious sentiments must figure high on the agenda of the Indian government insofar as e-commerce reforms are concerned.
The Indian regulations enshrined in Press Note 3 to be sure requires the name, address and contact details of the sellers to be provided on the website but what good it is when they can defy accountability by hiding behind the e-commerce portal? In other words, both can indulge in buck-passing, leaving the consumers and regulators bemused and tongue-tied. It is strange that the e-commerce portal can provide warehousing, logistics, call centres, ordering booking and payment collection services, and yet when it comes to the crunch, wash its hands of disagreeable transactions.
The inventory model in contradistinction is the one under which the e-commerce portal claims ownership of the goods on offer. And in the inventory model, the website would be more fully accountable both to the government and the consumers. The time has come for the Indian government to examine whether the so-called marketplace model pulls the wool over everyone’s eyes. It is widely known that the e-commerce portals participate actively in price fixing even though the Press Note clearly says it is not the remit of the portal but of the individual sellers.
The marketplace model is a farce. It must be replaced lock, stock and barrel with the inventory model. Meanwhile the Indian government should put its entire might behind the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s demand for an unconditional apology from Amazon at the risk of visas of its Indian officials being cancelled and fresh ones to wannabe Indian employees denied.