New regulations hint online retailers may get to sell more stuff under level 4 – eventually

  • Trade and industry minister Ebrahim Patel said e-commerce may be expanded during lockdown level 4 to include items currently excluded.
  • For now, online retailers may only sell the same stuff as other retailers, with hot food newly added.
  • E-commerce companies have argued that deliveries should be allowed as it limits contact between consumers and employees compared to traditional retail stores.  

E-commerce may be expanded incrementally during lockdown level 4, now referred to as Alert Level 4 in government documents, to include items currently excluded, trade and industry minister Ebrahim Patel said on Thursday night.

South Africa is due to embark on a phased reopening of the economy on Friday, starting with lockdown level 4, which will see several industries returning to work, and the purchase of additional items allowed.

Patel said online retailers will be allowed to sell essential food items, winter clothing, bedding, hot foods, stationery and cellphones during lockdown level 4 – but that could change.

“E-commerce will be expanded incrementally as an immediate step,” Patel said during a press conference on the differences between hard lockdown and level 4. “Deliveries of a larger list of products will be possible and it will be expanded further in level 4”

But regulations from the department of cooperative governance and traditional, due to be gazetted on Thursday, say that before e-commere is expanded, how to limit movement on roads will be considered.

Contact between people, law-enforcement challenges, and the impact on other businesses will also be considered.

South African logistics and e-commerce businesses have called on the South African government to fully open up home deliveries during the coronavirus epidemic.

They argued that contact between consumers and employees can be limited for online transactions in ways not possible in traditional brick-and-mortar stores.

Proponents have also argued that mental well-being can be improved by having access to certain non-essential goods such as devices for home entertainment and other items to remain occupied and healthy at home.

(Compiled by James de Villiers)