Amazon refuses to appear before Indian parliamentary panel on data privacy – MP

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FILE PHOTO: An employee of Amazon walks through a turnstile gate inside an Amazon Fulfillment Centre on the outskirts of Bengaluru, India, September 18, 2018. REUTERS/ Abhishek N. Chinnappa/File Photo

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Representatives of Amazon.com Inc in India have refused to appear before a parliamentary panel reviewing the country’s privacy bill, an Indian lawmaker said on Friday, an allegation the U.S. commerce giant said was a result of a misunderstanding.

Meenakshi Lekhi, head of a parliamentary panel which is reviewing the Indian government’s Personal Data Protection Bill, had said the officials’ refusal to appear before it on Oct. 28 could lead to “coercive action” against the company.

Some industry executives say the bill could potentially hurt foreign tech firms and force them to change how they store data. As part of the panel’s deliberations, it regularly holds discussions with technology companies.

“Amazon is doing huge business in India … If it doesn’t appear before the committee, coercive action may be initiated against it,” said Lekhi, without explaining what the action could be.

Asked for comment on Lekhi’s remarks, Amazon said in a statement it would continue to engage with the panel and there had been a misunderstanding about its position which it will work towards clarifying.

“The inability of our experts to travel from overseas due to travel restrictions and depose before the JPC (joint parliamentary committee) during the ongoing pandemic may have been misconstrued and led to a misunderstanding,” the Amazon statement said.

Separately, Facebook representatives appeared before the committee on Friday. Twitter has been asked to appear on Oct. 28, while digital payments firm Paytm and Alphabet Inc’s Google are due to appear on Oct. 29, said another lawmaker who is on the panel but did not wish to be named.

The lawmaker added that if a company’s executive does not appear before it when asked, it could amount to breach of parliamentary privilege which can even attract a jail term.

India has been drafting several regulations for the technology sector which industry executives say could hurt investment plans of foreign technology giants.

The Indian government is also considering a new policy for the e-commerce sector and to regulate so-called “non-personal” data.

(editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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