The government seems to have swung into action to put an end to dishonest practices and restore accountability in the e-commerce sector. At an inter-ministerial meeting held on Tuesday chaired by the commerce minister, some decisions were reportedly taken to this effect. Those include creation of a separate regulatory commission for the sector, framing a law to try the errant e-commerce operators and form a committee led by the commerce ministry to recommend ways to resolve disputes and handle other relevant issues. This committee will function until a complete legal framework is put in place to run this promising e-business sector. In the interim period, as it could be further learnt, the prevailing laws on digital security and money laundering will be used to deal with the offence, if any, committed by the e-business platforms. The government decision to regulate e-business has been a long time coming, for this new mode of doing business started more than a decade ago. Seeing that there was a regulatory lacuna, it provided a fertile ground for some fraudsters to take advantage of the situation.
Small wonder that they have meanwhile tainted the image of the online business or e-business sector of Bangladesh. Worse yet, it has happened at a time when general consumers could not go shopping the usual way due to pandemic-induced restrictions. As such, they had to be reliant on online shopping, an opportunity that held promise for the mode of business also. Once they opted for the digital retail outlets, they found those convenient as the ordered for goods could be had at their doorsteps. That was a new kind of shopping experience if only because the pandemic restricted their scope for physical shopping. But sooner had they begun loving online shopping than the scamsters entered the scene. The trust of the new converts to e-shopping took a sudden jolt.
Now, as complaints from cheated customers have been flooding the offices under the commerce ministry, the Bangladesh Bank (BB), the Directorate of National Consumer Right Protection (DNCRP) as well as the law-enforcement agencies and the courts of law, a realisation dawned on the authorities to put a brake on the aberrations. There was, however, a National Digital Commerce Policy, 2018, but that was not enough to deal with the instances of irregularities surfacing. In the face of rising number and frequency of customer cheating, the commerce ministry in July 2021, formulated the standard operating guidelines. The guideline stressed meeting the basic requirements like getting trade licence, VAT registration, TIN, having company account number etc that e-business portal should show on its website. Some transaction rules with customers were also included. Based on these guidelines, some measure of legal action has recently been taken against a few very notorious online operators who are reported to have duped unsuspecting customers into accepting their deceptively lucrative offers and thus bilked them out of their hard earned money or savings.
The good news is that the lynchpins of some of these rackets have been taken into custody with proceedings drawn against them. Hopefully, the move will send a clear message to the dishonest online operators. Also, it is believed, the process that has now got underway to have an e-commerce regulatory commission will help infuse order and sanctity into this emerging business sector sooner rather than later.