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Government moves to ‘Cleanup’ e-commerce sector

Published : Friday, 15 October, 2021 at 12:00 AM  Count : 219

Finally, the government has moved a step forward by forming a committee to conduct a 'cleanup operation' for the country's e-commerce sector - hit by repeated scam incidents. Though the move has been long overdue, but it's better late than never.

The 15-member panel, formed by the Cabinet Division on Tuesday, has one month to file a report. The committee will recommend steps to discipline the digital commerce platforms and protect the rights of customers who lost money to the unethical business practices of e-commerce companies. It will collect information on financial transactions and assets of troubled firms to find a mechanism to recover embezzled funds. Moreover, the committee will ensure communication between the relevant government ministries and agencies.

Even though, the recent move is essential to regulate the sector while recover embezzled funds worth thousands of crores of Taka - but it should also be the steppingstone to a full-fledged policy.

Our expectations from the newly formed 15 member panel by the Cabinet Division are unquestionably high.

Most importantly, it is crucial to include all stakeholders in the e -commerce sector, so to consider all inputs in formulating a well chalked out set of recommendations. Apart from protecting vendors and customers, government's authorities concerned must simultaneously focus on operating of digital platforms and payment gateways.

We particularly stress on incorporating foreign experts and policy makers in this regard.  Given that online business industry in the country is still in its growing stage, there must be room for mistakes and policymaking needs to be dynamic in order to accommodate technological changes. However, what cannot be condoned and must be met with action are business practices that exploit customers and sellers while giving them nothing in return - least of all what they are owed for their money and products.

We have also marked that a multi-party committee, formed by the commerce ministry, is also working to establish rules for the e-commerce business platforms. Some ministers had initially suggested passing a new law and forming a regulator for the e-commerce sector, but the commerce ministry has stepped away from the initiatives.

It is, however, not clear to us why the commerce ministry had reportedly stepped away, since the absence of a regulatory framework only aided dubious and devious people to take undue advantage of innocent clients.

To finish with, unless the newly formed committee aids in ensuring some form of accountability for the e - commerce business platforms, viability of such state-sponsored committee will be zero. In the long run, a polite reminder for the newly formed committee is that unless guidelines are not converted into future legislative tools, the 'Cleanup operation' will fail to serve its purpose.

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