Amazon shipping non-essentials in Maharashtra, Twitterati allege

In what appeared to be a smear campaign against US e-commerce giant Amazon, several users on Twitter alleged on Sunday that it was violating lockdown norms in Maharashtra by shipping non-essential items.

The topic “Amazon Defies Protocols” was trending with just under 4,000 tweets late on Sunday night on the micro-blogging platform, with several users supporting local traders who had been forced to shutter their businesses during the ongoing lockdown-like restrictions in the state.

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A search by ET showed that the e-commerce marketplace was shipping “non-essential” goods such as laptops, charging cables, work and study-from-home furniture to pin codes in Maharashtra.

Rivals Flipkart and Reliance Digital were also found to be selling some items that had not been categorised as essential goods – largely laptops, tablets, cables and chargers – which the e-commerce industry has previously argued as essential.

On its website, Reliance Digital said that it was delivering “essential electronics” including laptops, tablets, headphones and personal care products to customers in Maharashtra within 2-3 days.

“The Maharashtra government themselves are being vague. They’ve asked us to sell whatever we feel is essential products, so each of the players has interpreted it in their own way,” an executive at one of the leading e-commerce marketplaces, who pleaded anonymity given the controversy surrounding the issue, said.

The state government’s April 13 guidelines said e-commerce companies would be allowed to function “only for the supply of essential goods and services”.

The guidelines, however, did not provide further clarity on what constituted essential and non-essential goods.

Amazon, Flipkart and Reliance Ltd did not respond to ET’s queries seeking comment till press time on Sunday.

The e-commerce industry has argued that the distinction between essential and non-essential items was subjective and that with more consumers being at home, study and work-from-home enablers were also essential products, apart from food, groceries and personal care products.

ET reported earlier that the e-commerce industry had approached the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) seeking intervention in Maharashtra.

In a letter, an industry grouping had asked the DPIIT to ensure that ecommerce is allowed to function “without any discrimination… in Maharashtra.”

ET had reviewed the contents of the letter.



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