E-commerce laws and regulations in India are still evolving. This has created a sort of confusion and uncertainty among e-commerce entrepreneurs in India. While some have opened e-commerce outlets through websites others are exploring a more appropriate and legal way of running an e-commerce business in India.
Legal issues of e-commerce in India vary as per different business models. For instance, electronic trading of medical drugs in India requires more stringent e-commerce and legal compliances as compared to other e-commerce activities. Digital communication channels for drugs and healthcare products in India are scrutinised more aggressively than other e-commerce activities. In fact, regulatory and legislative measures to check online pharmacies trading in banned drugs in India are already in pipeline.
Besides there are many legal formalities that are required in order to start a company and e-commerce activity in India. A business can be operated as:
(1) Sole Proprietorship.
(3) Company – Public/Private.
(4) Limited Liability Partnerships (LLP).
Mostly people decide to open a private company to substantiate an e-commerce activity and this article would cover that aspect alone. To incorporate a private limited company you must approve its name, registered office address, have at least 2 directors with director identification numbers (DINs), must have a minimum authorised capital of Rs. 1 Lakh, memorandum of association (MOA) and articles of association (AOA), digital signature certificates (DSCs) wherever applicable, etc. Once these conditions and requirements are fulfilled, a certificate of incorporation is sent by post to the registered office of the newly registered company.
The private limited company is also required to comply with income tax related compliances. These include obtaining permanent account number (PAN), tax deduction account number (TAN), value added tax (VAT) registration and obtaining of tax identification number (TIN), professional tax if applicable, service tax, etc.
In certain cases, compliance with labour laws is also required. For instance, the Shops and Establishment Act is a legislation implemented by various States in India. The Act lays down mutual statutory obligation and rights of employers and employees. Registration of shop/establishment is mandatory within 30 days of commencement of work. Other workmen and labour related legislations cover areas like employees provident fund, employees state insurance, etc.
However, e-commerce in India is also required to be conducted in a legally permissible manner. This is more so when the information technology act 2000 (IT Act 2000) prescribes stringent penal and pecuniary penalties for violation of its provisions during e-commerce transactions.
The e-commerce players must ensure cyber law due diligence in India. This is more so when the cyber law due diligence for companies in India has become very stringent and foreign companies and websites are frequently prosecuted in India for non exercise of cyber due diligence.
The legal requirements for undertaking e-commerce in India also involve compliance with other laws like contract law, Indian penal code, etc. Further, online shopping in India also involves compliance with the banking and financial norms applicable in India. For instance, take the example of PayPal in this regard. If PayPal has to allow online payments receipt and disbursements for its existing or proposed e-commerce activities, it has to take a license from Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in this regard. Further, cyber due diligence for Paypal and other online payment transferors in India is also required to be observed.
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