White Paper on Regulating E-Commerce in India: Need for Principles-based Approach

By Ananth Padmanabhan and Arjun Sinha
20 March 2019

E-commerce has come under heavy regulatory intervention in the past few months. From data localisation to mandatory sharing of data, and a catch-all definition of e-commerce itself to regulatory barriers for inventory-based business models in all these sectors, these recent proposals leave limited room for natural evolution through market competition. Pushing back against these proposals, this White Paper argues that a principles-based rather than rule-based approach must be adopted to regulate this sector. This can be operationalised through a four-step process: the first step is to identify critical sectors where a policy is required in the first place; the second requires prioritising concerns that regulation needs to address immediately rather than crystal-gazing; the third is to explore possible models of co-regulation; and the final step is to focus on effective enforcement of the limited number of areas where state intervention through policy would exist because of adherence to the first three steps.