Club Factory, Shein, Romwe ‘selectively’ shipping orders – ETtech.com


Club Factory, Shein, Romwe 'selectively' shipping orders
Days after the government banned 59 Chinese apps on concerns over data security and privacy, Chinese e-commerce companies Club Factory, Shein and Romwe have been selectively accepting and shipping orders to Indian consumers, according to users and ET’s own analysis.

The 59 apps were quickly removed from Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store following the ban order by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY).

However, their websites remain accessible to users through India’s telecom networks, and a few small internet service providers (ISPs).

Orders on Club Factory were successfully placed as late as July 8, nine days after the ban was announced. Sources told ET that Club Factory orders were also being shipped by multiple e-commerce logistics companies.

Some users reported that they have been able to place orders on Shein’s website, while Romwe’s website was still accessible, although users were unable to place orders as the payment systems were disabled.

“Payment is temporarily unavailable, please come back later,” read a banner on the Romwe website.

ET accessed screenshots of orders placed through Club Factory and Shein earlier this week, with delivery tracking indicating that orders would be shipped in the coming days.

There are also indications that these ecommerce firms could be circumventing the ban by offering customers alternative links to download their apps. They may also be using multiple domains.

A senior executive at a large telecom operator told ET that the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had sought blocking of particular domain names but telecom companies have found that these Chinese e-commerce players were using several domain names to bypass the firewall.

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“Telcos are trying to find the various DNS (Domain Name Server) of the combination and have informed the government that there are other DNSes that are making the sites active,” the executive added.

India’s leading telecom operators Airtel, Vodafone-Idea and Jio did not respond to ET’s queries.

Club Factory and Shein did not respond to emails till press time Thursday, while no Romwe spokesperson could be reached for comment.

Club Factory, which is the largest among the three banned e-commerce platforms, provides a link on its official Instagram handle from where users can directly download the Android Package (APK) to install its app on Android devices.

While the app was fully functional, ET found that the one-time-password (via SMS) required to place orders was not getting delivered.

“Club Factory has taken a view that the government order is towards ISPs and does not mean that they’ve got to shut down their business here,” said a person with knowledge of the developments. “Club Factory is also working through multiple domains, making it harder for ISPs to block.”

Apar Gupta, executive director at digital advocacy group Internet Freedom Foundation, explained that circumventing the blocked Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) of these websites was not a difficult task for these companies, but it does mean that the DoT and MeitY would have to bring up the issue of non-compliance of its ban order with telecom firms and ISPs.

“Blocking digital content in its true spirit is a dynamic activity,” said Dhiraj Gupta, chief technology officer of fraud detection platform MFilterIt. “This would mean ISPs need to be constantly monitoring if anyone has navigated around blocks with new IP and URLs and keep adding them to the blacklist.”

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