India proposes tougher e-commerce rules to address ‘widespread cheating’ complaints

India proposed on Monday banning flash sales on e-commerce platforms and preventing their affiliate entities from being listed as sellers on the platform as the South Asian market looks to further tighten rules that could hurt the future prospects of Amazon and Walmart’s Flipkart in the world’s second largest market.

The proposal, unveiled by India’s Ministry of Consumer Affairs on Monday evening, comes at a time when brick-and-mortar retailers in India have ramped up their complaints to raise concerns about the way Amazon and Flipkart are expanding their operations in the country.

In its proposal, India’s Ministry of Consumer Affairs said that e-commerce firms should not be allowed to hold flash sales that are very popular during festive season in the country. During flash sales, which are akin to Amazon’s Prime Day, e-commerce firms see some of their biggest spikes in customer orders as brands offer heavy discounts on their products.

“Certain e-commerce entities are engaging in limiting consumer choice by indulging in ‘back to back’ or ‘flash’ sales wherein one seller selling on platform does not carry any inventory or order fulfilment capability but merely places a ‘flash or back to back’ order with another seller controlled by platform. This prevents a level playing field and ultimately limits customer choice and increases prices,” the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry said it is making the proposal, for which it plans to seek industry feedback over the next 15 days, after receiving “several complaints against widespread cheating and unfair trade practices being observed in e-commerce ecosystem.”

The announcement comes at a time when Flipkart is in talks to raise as much as $3 billion and explore the public markets. Both Amazon and Flipkart are also the subject of an ongoing antitrust probe in India.

This is a developing story. More to follow…