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The government will finalise the e-commerce policy once the Personal Data Protection Bill, which lays down the guidelines for data processing, is approved by Parliament, a top official said on Monday.

The draft e-commerce policy has proposed setting up a legal and technological framework for restrictions on cross-border data flow and has also laid out conditions for businesses regarding collection or processing of sensitive data locally and storing it abroad.

The Personal Data Protection Bill was recently referred to a joint select committee of both Houses of Parliament. It bars storing and processing of personal data by entities without the explicit consent of an individual.

“My sense is once the data protection Bill gets finalised then the policy will also move forward,” Additional Secretary in the Commerce and Industry Ministry Sudhanshu Pandey told PTI.

Asked about protests by a traders’ body alleging that e-commerce companies were indulging in unfair practices, Pandey said whatever violations are pointed out, the enforcement agencies will look at them, and whether the complaint has elements which point to violation or not.

“It is for the enforcement agencies to actually take action,” he added.

The commerce and industry ministry has already uploaded the draft of the e-commerce policy.

Earlier launching the World Bank report titled “Unleashing E-Commerce for South Asian Integration”, Pandey said e-commerce has unleashed tremendous gains with the elimination of inefficiencies and lower productivity, but its full potential is yet to be harnessed.

The report notes that although e-commerce has grown significantly in South Asia, online sales accounted for a mere 1.6 and 0.7 per cent of total retail sales in India and Bangladesh, compared to 15 per cent in China and around 14 per cent globally.

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According to the report, increasing the use of e-commerce by consumers and firms in South Asia could potentially help increase competition and firm productivity, and encourage diversification of production and exports.

“E-commerce can boost a range of economic indicators across South Asia, from entrepreneurship and job growth to higher GDP rates and overall productivity,” said Sanjay Kathuria, World Bank Lead Economist and co-author of the report.

“By unleashing its online trade potential, South Asia can better integrate into international value chains, increase its market access, and strengthen commercial linkages between countries across the region,” he added. PTI RSN CS

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