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Who to give money back to customers, suppliers?

Published : Monday, 27 September, 2021 at 12:00 AM  Count : 730

Out of around 1,600 digital commerce platforms some errant e-commerce companies including Evaly, Alesha Mart, e-Orrange, Dhamaka, Sirajganjbazar, Daraz and Aladinerprodip have pocketed several thousand crores of taka from its customers.
Those e-commerce platforms allured customers, who intended to buy lucrative products, with their attractive offers and advertisements.
After getting Bangladesh Bank's report in last June this year, the Commerce Ministry, Home Ministry and Information and Technology (ICT) Division and other authorities concerned including the National Board of Revenue and intelligence agencies took steps to stop the fraudulent activities of them.
Following the directives of the government's top brass and responding to the demands of victims who lost huge money investing in the digital platforms, the authorities concerned started taking necessary measures including legal actions.
Several law suits have already been filed against the owners of Evaly and e-Orange and process is underway to file cases against two others - Sirajganjbazar and Aladinerprodip - as owners of the two platforms have already fled away without giving back customers' money.
Not only the clients or customers, most of the suppliers of the digital platforms haven't been paid for their products supplied to the customers.
After raising allegations and getting evidence of fraudulence, the authorities concerned - the Commerce Ministry, Home Ministry and Information and Technology (ICT) Division - took steps to prepare a complete guideline and a new law to prevent the agencies fraudulent activities and save people.
At the same time, taking the complaints of the victims, the authorities have already lodged several cases against the owners of Evaly and e-Orange and arrested them. They were being quizzed for their
    offenses.
After arresting the owners, a section of the digital platform customers have started demonstrating demanding release of the e-commerce platform owners with a hope of getting their money back.
But, the government as well as the ministries and other relevant authorities are strict about the matter so that they can't flee without paying the customers' money back. They apprehend that they may escape once they are released on bail.
In this situation, questions have arisen that who will pay the customers' money back or pay the dues to the suppliers? Will the government pay the money back closing the companies or the owners will pay the money back taking the support of the government? Why did the government allow the digital platforms to do such business without having a policy or law?
Will the problem be solved by arresting the owners or shutting down the companies? According to the persons concerned real solution can't be found by allowing the owners to do business and opportunity to pay the customers' money back.
With the days passing a kind of antagonism is being created among the general consumers about e-commerce. That image can be seen in the mountain of complaints filed against the e-commerce sector to the National Department of Consumer Protection.
From July 2018 to last June, some 18,317 complaints had been received against e-commerce companies.
Meanwhile, the government is working to curb various scams of e-commerce companies in the name of selling products with attractive offers or services.
At least nine government departments are working together to prevent fraudulence, harassment, embezzlement and money laundering from the sector.
The authorities are Central Digital Commerce Cell of the Ministry of Commerce, Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), Bangladesh Bank's Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU), National Consumer Rights Protection Directorate, Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Metropolitan Detective Police (DB), Customs Intelligence and the Directorate of Investigation and the Directorate of Audit, Intelligence and Investigation.
The authorities are working to take legal action against those responsible for fraudulence in the name of buying or selling e-commerce products.
Regarding the issues, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi on Sunday told the Daily Observer that many e commerce companies are unlikely to be able to return the amount it took from customers in advance payment for goods in a crushing blow to the rogue e-commerce platforms' hundreds of thousands of aggrieved buyers.
"I don't think Evaly has the money. There is not much scope to recover the money from them."
A senior official of the Commerce Ministry said around Tk 3,000 crore was stuck in huge of customers in Evaly, e-Orange and Dhamaka shop. Such incidents have adversely affected the entire e-commerce sector. The government has also fallen embarrassed situation for the fraudulence. As a result, all concerned parties are working to protect the customer's interests, so that no more unpleasant incidents take place.
Experts said the practice of not giving products has created an unhealthy environment in the e-commerce sector.
They say the chances of e-commerce customers getting their money back are slim at the moment as the companies don't have the resources to pay the debts. The officials of the organizations could not fulfill their promise to repay the debt within six months.
The court will now decide on the chairman and managing director of the arrested Evaly, or in the public interest, give the company a custodian like Destiny and Jubok.
As a virtual discussion meeting organised by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) held on Thursday, the think-tank body gave seven point recommendations on challenges in the E-commerce sector.
The points, the speakers suggested overcoming the challenges, are amendment and implementation of existing law and regulations properly for taking actions against the fraudulent e-commerce organizations and enhancing institutional capacity and ensuring coordination among various institutions including the Commerce Ministry, Bangladesh Bank, Directorate of National Consumers' Right Protection, Financial Intelligence Unit, and Competition Commission through sufficient and skilled human resource and adoption of technology.
They also suggested collecting regular data through the financial intelligence on the E-commerce and share those with relevant bodies and also with public on a regular basis to increase accountability of these businesses and make customers aware of the activities of E-commerce businesses, creating awareness among the customers about their responsibly and the dishonest e-commerce organizations, activating e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-CAB) to collect information of new businesses before registering, asses their sustainability and allow membership of the businesses by monitoring the operations of these businesses and solve the problems through the legal framework of the Company Act.
Tanvir Ehsan, a buyer of the Evaly said, "Even though they promised delivery within 10 days, we did not get the goods or money back in two months. Evaly has also cheated with countless new customers like me. I want a remedy."
According to the Commerce Ministry, Evaly owes over Tk 205 crore to traders alone till July 15 while they owe customers of different levels Tk 543 crore. Of the amount, two lakh seven thousand buyers will get Tk 311 crore and the merchants will get Tk 206 crore.
Apart from this, the customers of other sectors get the remaining Tk 26 crore. According to Evaly's calculations, it has current assets of Tk 90.67 crore against the liability.
Sohail Rana, a police officer involved in e-Orange, fled the country after customers in the capital staged a protest demanding payment. Customers owe Tk 1,100 crore to this company. Dhamakashop owes customers Tk 750 crore. A report by the Ministry of Commerce said three of the institutions are now closed.
Abdul Waheed Tamal, General Secretary of the E-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (E-CAB), an organization of e-commerce organizations in the country, said consumers and merchants of Evaly should go to the Department of Consumer Protection to get their money back.
Hafizur Rahman, In-charge of the Commerce Ministry's digital commerce cell, said, "Since the case has been filed, it will now be taken to court. We have been requesting consumers for a long time to file a complaint with the Department of Consumer Protection. There is still time, I think they should do it. Then there is a legal document. No matter which solution comes later, it will be useful as a legal document.



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