Oct 2020

Regulating E-Commerce Platforms: Should We Worry About the Monopolisation of Retail?

Friday, 16 Oct 2020, 4:30 pm-Friday, 16 Oct 2020, 5:30 pm

E-commerce currently constitutes 1.6% of India’s retail market. Investments by Big Tech in Reliance show that through the fusion of online and offline retail, e-commerce firms could control the entire retail market. For instance, the Facebook-Jio deal is meant to use WhatsApp to digitalise small businesses. What does this mean for sellers and consumers? What economic relationships can regulators expect to see when technology companies seek to drive retail?

Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy’s new report ‘Changing Contours of the Sharing Economy: E-commerce platforms, infrastructure and value in the Indian economy‘ uses survey data from 402 consumers and 68 third-party sellers on Amazon and Flipkart to understand the e-commerce market in India. It examines the tendency of e-commerce to become infrastructure-like: it is tending towards becoming unavoidable and setting the rules of retail. The report also finds that e-commerce firms are not mere intermediaries but actively intervene in the market that they create. The report recommends policy action including competition, data sharing and public investment. Another report by Vidhi, ‘An Integrated Framework for the Study of Digital Platforms‘, takes a bird’s eye view of platform regulation and builds a tool that can help create legal rules for platform responsibility.

With this background, this panel elaborated on the following questions:

  1. What value do e-commerce and broadly, digitalisation, add to third-party sellers and consumers?
  2. Does e-commerce create relationships of subordination and dependence among third-party sellers?
  3. How can regulation ensure a competitive retail market in the backdrop of digitalisation?

Panelists were:

  • Prabir Purkayastha, Editor, Newsclick
  • Kartini Samon, Asia regional staff, GRAIN
  • Jai Vipra, Senior Resident Fellow, ALTR, Vidhi.

Moderated by: Aniruddh Nigam, Research Fellow, ALTR, Vidhi.

Watch the webinar below: