That’s the way to do itCourt order unbanning online delivery services is a relief.
The Supreme Court's interim order asking the government not to stop online delivery of essential items amidst Covid-19 restrictions has come as a relief for many who have become increasingly dependent on the benefits brought about by e-commerce.
The top court rightly observed that e-commerce has played an important role in delivering essential services during the pandemic, also pointing out the absurdity of the government's move to restrict private e-commerce service providers while allowing the state-owned Food Management and Trading Company to take home delivery orders.
Authorities have at times been exhibiting highhandedness as well as an utter lack of sensitivity while restricting the services of online delivery platforms. They went to the extent of detaining promoters and staff of some Kathmandu-based online delivery services during the lockdown last year. In restricting the services of e-commerce platforms, what the authorities fail to understand is that these portals have come to the rescue of not only the people who fear going to brick-and-mortar shops to make their purchases, but also Covid-19 patients who cannot step out of their homes to buy food and other essential items.
Online shopping is still at a nascent phase in Nepal, but it has great scope for expansion in the near future. In the past few years, various e-commerce sites have drawn the young, tech-literate crowd, providing them with a range of services, particularly gadgets, food items and apparels. However, a lack of multiple options in payment gateways and credit facilities, coupled with fraud and poor customer support services by online shopping platforms, have often kept online consumers at bay.
That is exactly where the government should step in. The government’s task is not to restrict online shopping but to regulate it so that it provides a hassle-free shopping experience to consumers and ease of business to entrepreneurs. The government should set up institutions that address the grievances of consumers and help entrepreneurs prosper while being responsible to their customers. The right approach is to build a sturdy infrastructure and consumer rights protection laws to facilitate and regulate, and not restrict, online shopping.
Some recent studies have shown that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a definitive impact on shopping behaviours of people globally, more so in emerging economies. While the pandemic-induced restrictions and lockdowns have been a boon for internet stores, consumers have also increasingly found online shopping more suited to the changed scenario where, for the past year and a half, stepping out has been a luxury.
With the internet penetrating remote corners of the world, and with digital literacy accelerating quickly, the transition to online shopping is inevitable. Notwithstanding the fact that the change has come as a result of a dramatic turn of events globally in the wake of the pandemic, buying things on the internet is now expected to be a permanent phenomenon. And why would it not? For, more often than not, online shopping enhances the shopping experience of individuals ranging from extremely busy professionals to home makers and persons with disabilities. In that sense, online shopping is an enabler, as it ensures accessibility for those who, for various reasons, cannot shop the traditional way.