Offline retailers have opposed a move by mobile phone makers to tag handsets as essential products so that they are exempt from restrictions on commercial activities that are in force in some cities and states.
An association of retailers has written to finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, saying such a move would be detrimental to efforts to control the second wave of coronavirus infections in the country. It alleged that e-commerce companies are pushing this agenda through the handset companies to prevent loss of business because smartphones account for 60 per cent of their revenue.
“We want to bring to your notice that these foreign companies will not tell you the adverse effects of the change of category,” the All India Mobile Retailers Association said in the letter to the finance minister dated April 24.
The letter comes days after Apple, Xiaomi, Vivo, Oppo and others urged state governments to allow the sale of smartphones as an essential commodity.
The India Cellular and Electronics Association, which represents both mobile phone makers and electronics manufacturers, sought the essentials tag for phones, laptops and tablets to avoid hurdles in manufacturing and selling them.
However, the All India Mobile Retailers Association said such a move will bring 1.5 million store workers back to the shops and negate the efforts to break the transmission of the COVID-19 virus.
“This year we are facing a crisis, when cases are skyrocketing and the healthcare system is collapsing,” said national president of AIMRA, Arvinder Khurana. “We are putting the nation ahead of our personal business interest, unlike these foreign e-commerce companies, and requesting the government to continue treating devices as non-essentials.”