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Amazon served with a ‘show cause’ notice over import & sale of refurbished smartphones in India

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Government of India has issued a “show cause” notice to e-commerce retailer Amazon for importing and selling used and refurbished smartphones in India. However, Amazon isn’t the only one to have received such notice from the government. Along with Amazon, around 20 other e-commerce companies have received show cause notice, including Snapdeal, eBay, Olx and Quikr.

According to the Ministry of Environment, importing used/refurbished mobile phones into the country for resale is a violation of both hazardous and other waste (management & transboundary movement) rules and e-waste (management and handling) Rules.

Last month, the environment ministry issued a notice to Amazon “to stop the import/shipment of used and/or refurbished EEE immediately”. It also threatened to initiate action against the company under Section 15 of the Environment (Protection) Act.

If a company sells such imported devices, it is violating Section 5 of the Environment (Protection) Act, which outlines how hazardous, other waste and e-waste should be handled. Violation of Section 5 could get the offender up to five years of jail time or a fine of $1,500 or both. Under Section 15 of the Environment (Protection) Act, the maximum punishment is five years in jail and/or Rs 1 lakh fine.

While India allows sale of refurbished and used smartphones in the country, additional approval is required for importing such devices in India. As per the current rules, selling of imported used and refurbished devices is not allowed in India.

Amazon announced selling of such devices earlier last month, given that India is a big market for used and refurbished phones. Last year, around seven million such phones were sold in the country, according to Counterpoint Research.

Commenting on this, Amazon spokesperson said,

We are compliant and will always remain compliant with local laws. Amazon.in is a marketplace where goods are all sold by third party sellers. However, we have noted the concerns flagged by the Ministry of Environment and are conducting a detailed evaluation, working closely with our sellers, partners and the government to ensure our commitment to compliance continues.

The order from the government stated that:

In case the e-commerce fails to comply with the above directions from the date of issue of this direction, the ministry will be constrained to initiate proceedings against the said company under provisions of Section 5 of the Environment (Protection) Act.

On an average, India produces around 1.8 million tonnes of electronic waste in one calendar year. Furthermore, it is likely to double in the next 2 years. Thus, it seems that the government is stern about not letting other countries dump their used electronic goods in India.


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