Flipkart suspends services, Amazon stops non-essential sales due to COVID-19 lockdown

Flipkart suspends services, Amazon stops non-essential sales due to COVID-19 lockdown
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New Delhi: E-commerce giants Amazon India and Flipkart have temporarily suspended their services as India began a 21-day lockdown to fight the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Walmart Inc's Flipkart has suspended services, a notice on the e-commerce firm's website said on Wednesday. However, the Amazon said it will serve only products of high priority.

Amazon India on Tuesday said it has temporarily stopped taking orders and disabled shipment of low-priority products as it focuses on delivery of essential items like household staples, hygiene and other high-priority products.

The company, in a blogpost, said these changes are effective from Tuesday and that it will reach out to customers whose orders of low-priority products are pending.

They will be given a choice to cancel their order and receive a refund for prepaid items, it added.

"...we are seeing an increased demand for priority products and important services. To serve our customers' most urgent needs while also ensuring safety of our employees, we are temporarily prioritising our available fulfilment and logistics capacity to serve products that are currently critical for our customers such as household staples, packaged food, health care, hygiene, personal safety and other high priority products," the blogpost said.

The company said, "this also means that we have to temporarily stop taking orders and disable shipments for lower-priority products."

Amazon said it will follow all guidance from the Centre and state governments, and is working with authorities to ensure on-ground support that will enable it to offer a more expanded selection to fulfill customer needs.

"We recognise these are hard decisions that may impact some of our sellers' business - we appreciate their understanding and continue to work for ways to enable small businesses to meet customer requirements during this time," the blogpost noted.

The company said it will remain focused on providing the vital service of delivering much-needed supplies directly to the doorsteps of people, especially to those most vulnerable, like the elderly.

"We continue to make changes to our logistics, transportation, supply chain, purchasing, and seller processes to prioritise stocking and delivering priority products," an Amazon India spokesperson said.

E-commerce players, including Amazon India and Milkbasket, on Monday had faced disruption in delivery of even essential products to their customers.

Industry watchers said there is an urgent need to clarify the kind of products that are allowed to be delivered by e-commerce companies.

Further, they had said there is a need for uniform classification of essential items across various states, and that instructions need to flow down clearly to the last mile, where the delivery agents are facing issues.

Industry experts also flagged challenges around movement of delivery personnel and staff, as well as interstate movement of goods amid lockdown across the country.

Some e-commerce players are also urging the government to expand the scope of essential products beyond food items and medicines to include other products, like cable and routers that may be required for customers who are working from home.

(With Reuters and PTI inputs)

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