'Arrogant' US e-commerce giants flout our laws: Indian commerce minister

Published June 28, 2021
Piyush Goyal, India's Minister of Railways and Minister of Commerce and Industry, attends a session at the 50th World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, January 21. — Reuters/File
Piyush Goyal, India's Minister of Railways and Minister of Commerce and Industry, attends a session at the 50th World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, January 21. — Reuters/File

Indian Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal has ratcheted up the heat on US e-commerce giants like Amazon and Walmart, accusing them of arrogance and of flouting local laws by indulging in predatory pricing practices.

Goyal said companies were using their scale and access to large pools of low-cost capital to indulge in predatory pricing practices "to the detriment of mom-and-pop stores".

"A number of these large e-commerce companies have come into India and very blatantly flouted the laws of the land in more ways than one," he told a virtual event late on Saturday.

"I've had several engagements with these large companies, particularly the American ones, and I can see a little bit of arrogance," he said.

Goyal did not directly name Amazon.com or Walmart Inc's Flipkart — the two dominant e-commerce players in India — or specify which laws had been flouted. But his comments come at a time of growing clamour from small Indian traders and retailers, who accuse the US giants of circumventing Indian consumer protection laws and competition laws.

Amazon and Flipkart did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Goyal's scathing criticism.

The two companies have denied the allegations levelled against them by the traders.

Goyal also criticised companies for indulging in "forum shopping" in courts and failing to comply with an investigation launched by the Competition Commission of India (CCI).

Flipkart and Amazon have appealed against the CCI's bid to restart an investigation into their business practices, after a judge this month dismissed the companies' original pleas.

"To my mind, if they have nothing to hide, if they are doing honest business practices, why don't they respond to the CCI?" Goyal said at the virtual event organised by the Stanford India Policy and Economics Club.

His comments came days after India unveiled a new set of e-commerce regulations that could dent both Amazon and Flipkart's ambitions in India, and force the duo to review certain business structures.

Separately, in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday, the Confederation of All India Traders accused e-commerce companies of treating India like a "banana republic" with weak laws.

The body urged the government to ensure that the proposed e-commerce rules were not diluted, despite the lobbying efforts of e-commerce giants.

The US-India Business Council, a top US lobby group, described India's proposed new e-commerce rules as concerning in an internal memo this week.

Opinion

Avoid Modi’s nationalist turf
Updated 19 Oct 2021

Avoid Modi’s nationalist turf

It remains the only party with a presence in every Indian state and makes it best equipped to effect the required radical change.
Back to the Fund
Updated 20 Oct 2021

Back to the Fund

The main IMF conditions have failed to deliver sustainable growth or even fiscal or external deficit reduction over four decades.
The lamp of guidance
Updated 19 Oct 2021

The lamp of guidance

Those seeking to learn from his example must follow the moral precepts he gave otherwise it is half-hearted devotion at most.

Editorial

Opposition’s chance?
Updated 19 Oct 2021

Opposition’s chance?

What the opposition can do is take advantage of the cleavage between PTI and the establishment, perhaps widen it and leverage it.
Evading tax laws
Updated 20 Oct 2021

Evading tax laws

Challenge of tax compliance can't be dealt with without directly taxing incomes irrespective of source and punishing tax evaders.
19 Oct 2021

KCR delays

AS political and bureaucratic stakeholders drag their feet over reviving the Karachi Circular Railway, residents of...
Financial troubles
Updated 18 Oct 2021

Financial troubles

Growing trade gap is fuelling the current account deficit and bringing the already meagre foreign exchange reserves under stress.
18 Oct 2021

Complaint portal

IN a ruling on Thursday, the Mingora bench of the Peshawar High Court held that the Prime Minister’s Performance...
18 Oct 2021

Capital’s master plan

IT is encouraging that on Thursday, the restructured commission formed by the federal cabinet to revise ...