E-commerce players hoping for an immediate lifting of restrictions preventing the online sale and delivery of non-essential products to consumers have been dealt a harsh blow by trade & industry minister Ebrahim Patel.
Asked at a government press conference on Thursday dealing with new regulations pertaining to the extended lockdown — which is now set to end only on 30 April — about whether the restrictions on e-commerce players will be lifted, Patel avoided answering the question directly, saying e-commerce will be dealt with as part of a plan to lift the nationwide lockdown on a controlled basis.
E-commerce companies, including the country’s largest, Takealot.com, have argued that it makes no sense for there to be a ban on the online sale and delivery of so-called “non-essential” items.
Takealot CEO Kim Reid argued in an interview with TechCentral on Wednesday that government should allow unfettered e-commerce and food delivery as a way of getting the economy going again.
“If you look at what’s happened elsewhere in the world, e-commerce has pretty much been trading at full throttle,” Reid said.
He said the Chinese government, for example, actively encouraged that country’s biggest commerce retailers to deliver services in Wuhan, the original epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic.
But the appeal appears to have fallen on deaf ears.
“What we saw initially, on 25 March, with the announcement of the first set of lockdown measures … was a sharp lockdown to contain the spread of the virus. (This was) followed by a gradual expansion of products and services … to limit the negative impact that communities were facing,” Patel said at the media briefing.
Government announced the relaxation of some lockdown rules on Thursday, including allowing for artisans to deal with emergency repair work; stores to sell hardware and components used in this emergency repair work; vehicle repair centres to operate to work on vehicles used in essential services; call centres of retailers providing short-term insurance policy cover to open; and ICT services to function.
“It is not possible to comment publicly on where we are with the review,” Patel said in answering the question about e-commerce trading, “but a whole range of activities in goods and services are being looked at. We are looking at a risk-adjusted approach to the period ahead…”
This process, he said, deals not only with online services, but is part of a broader plan to add “additional activities and services” over time.
“We are seeking to avoid a sudden rush of people back to work at the end of the lockdown. We are also seeking to be influenced by the health data and the work of scientists and professionals that are advising us on this issue.” — (c) 2020 NewsCentral Media