The Pakistan government will soon notify two core groups to formulate ecommerce regulations, a top official said on Friday, raising the hope for a much-needed regulated online trade in the country.
We will notify a policy unit and an advisory unit next week, said Robina Athar, who heads the ecommerce framework committee constituted by the ministry of commerce. Last year the government constituted a committee, consisting of officials from the ministries of commerce and information and technology and the State Bank of Pakistan, to devise a regulatory framework.
Athar didnâ€™t comment on the delay in the rollout. But, she said nothing has been done on the ground. Since there has been no spadework, it will take time before the framework is ready, she added.
Ecommerce in Pakistan has caught a speed in the recent past with customers developing familiarity with the online platforms for buying and selling. After the introduction of 3G and 4G, the internet penetration got a big jump. The governmentâ€™s estimate put the number of internet users at 30 million, which is 15 percent of the countryâ€™s population.
Absence of regulations is seeing a mushroom growth of online shops in the country. The internet buying or selling is still a new development in the country. A majority of consumers is not ready to buy goods or services on digital platforms. Cash on delivery, accounting for 90 percent of $60 to 70 million annual ecommerce transactions, is the popular mode of buying that restrains the shopping experience from becoming entirely digitised.
In Pakistan, where around 100 online shopping portals are operating, the customer is given two options: one to pay online using Visa and Master. and second to opt for cash on delivery. In the former, the payment is transferred to the merchant account of the acquiring bank.
Telecom operators have introduced digital payment solutions, but consumers still prefer cash on delivery. Athar said e-payment will be the main discussion point. The stakeholders from the private sector will be invited to enlighten the government with the main issues to be resolved through the regulations. She said the regulatory framework will cover intellectual property rights, data privacy, consumer protection and dispute resolution.
Ali Zain Sheikh, country manager at Kaymu, a leading online marketplace of Berlin incubator Rocket Internet said the regulations will pave the way for online payment culture. Buyers will gain control of buying after the online payment infrastructure, Sheikh said. He said currently local consumers resist to changes. However, ecommerce market size has trebled over the recent past, he added.
Waheed Ahmed of Mustakbil, a leading recruitment portal, said regulations are for the betterment of service providers and the users. How these are implemented is the thing that we must wait for in order to assess the impact, Ahmed said.