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DTIC Shines Light on e-Commerce During COVID-19

May 19, 2020

Department of Trade, Industry and Competition

The trade, industry and competition department has been working on a plan for e-Commerce to be safely rolled out since the Alert Level 4 regulations came into effect on 1 May.

The department revealed this in a statement on the recently gazetted Directions Regarding e-Commerce Sales During Alert Level 4 of the COVID-19 National State of Disaster.

The aim of the Directions is to provide direction on the goods that can be sold through e-Commerce platforms and the protocols that must be observed by retailers, couriers or delivery services and customers in respect of such goods.

All goods other than those currently prohibited by Disaster Management Act Regulations can be sold online.

According to the Directions, e-Commerce is an important retail platform but “appropriate health and safety protocols need to be put in place which can allow the full e-Commerce supply chain to operate safely while mitigating the risk of it becoming a vector for transmission of the coronavirus”.

The Directions set down the minimum protocols that retailers, courier and delivery services, and customers must maintain in order to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

The department points out that the Directions enable the sale of products through e-Commerce platforms and delivery-systems that are currently not available at retail outlets, including household appliances, electronic goods, furniture, books, music, gym products, the full range of clothing and footwear products, household utensils and others.

The trade, industry and competition minister, Ebrahim Patel, extoled the virtues of e-Commerce as a critical enabler to opening the economy through contactless transactions.

“This can reduce the movement of consumers, and the density of shoppers in retail spaces. Further it can accelerate innovation, support local manufacturing and increase access by the informal market and poorer South Africans,” he said.

The minister added that the department needed to work with the sector to “make digital platforms an avenue which can be used by a greater number of local manufacturers, retailers and consumers to transact”.

He indicated that a shift from traditional retailing to e-Commerce platforms in South Africa was likely going forward.

“We look forward to future engagement with the sector to address how to create more jobs in the sector and retrain workers displaced by the shift to e-Commerce and to ensure that there is space for local small businesses and youth-owned enterprises as suppliers of goods and providers of digital platforms and delivery services,” he said.