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Bangladesh government readies repayments to cheated e-com clients

FE REPORT | Thursday, 9 December 2021


The government has started the process of refunding a stuck-up fund of Tk 2.14 billion of e-commerce customers.

The fund is now pending with payment gateways since the shop-less trading firms went bust, officials said.

"The Ministry of Commerce has already requested the central bank to take necessary steps," said one official, in an advancement that should defuse much of the furor over the crisis.

Sources say the move to settle the matter came in line with a second meeting of the sub-committee on formulating a proposed digital commerce law and regulatory body for the freewheeling e-commerce sector.

The ministry believes that the funds stuck at different payment gateways may be paid back to the customers concerned if the ordered products were not received by them, according to a commerce ministry letter.

Besides, those consumers of the digital companies who have no cases against such companies can be recompensed, the letter mentions in the repayment directions.

When contacted, additional secretary of commerce ministry AHM Shafiquzzaman said, "We have asked the Bangladesh Bank (BB) to take necessary step to pay back the funds to the customers concerned that got stuck with different escrow services."

He hastened to add that consumers who have no cases against such digital platforms will get back their money.

On November 02, 2021, Bangladesh Bank requested the commerce ministry for the payback of over Tk 2.14 billion in e-commerce customers' money stuck up in different payment gateways. The commerce ministry on November 07 also sought opinion from the law ministry on legal aspects regarding the repayment.

On June 30, the central bank had introduced an escrow service on payment to e-commerce platforms.

Since the issuance of a circular on October 14, 2021 over the botched e-commerce issue, over Tk 5.05 billion had been paid to the payment gateways by the customers concerned against goods they had ordered. Of the amount, the payment gateways have already settled over Tk 2.91 billion to the online marketplaces.

The remaining amount of over Tk 2.14 billion got stuck in the different service-providing firms, including SSL, shurjoMukhi, Foster, bKash, Nagad, and Southeast Bank Ltd.

Of the stuck-up amount, over Tk 1.65 billion of Qcoom online shopping, paid by its customers against ordered goods, has been stuck up with Foster Payments.

And over Tk 485 million has been stuck in other payment gateways, according to a central bank letter.

Earlier, in a special meeting on the troubled e-commerce sector held at the commerce ministry on October 25, 2021 with Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi in the chair, the government decided to take steps to pay back Tk 2.14 billion stuck in different payment gateways to e-commerce customers in three months.

Government agencies concerned have been working to pay back the money that was paid in advance by customers from July 01 until October 14, it adds.

The government authorities have taken multiple steps in the wake of various scandals by dubious e-commerce platforms such as Evaly, E-orange, Dhamaka Shopp-ing, Sirajganj Shop and their likes.

The cabinet division and the commerce ministry have already formed a high-powered committee to bring discipline in e-commerce through resolving the problems the otherwise prospective sector is riddled with evidently for lax guidance.

Top officials of the e-commerce platforms concerned, who are allegedly involved in regularities in the name of online trade with customers concerned, are now in jail.

A process is now at the final stage to issue unique business-identification numbers (UBINs) to e-commerce platforms this month.

The government has made a move to set up a regulatory authority for the country's e-commerce sector, which, experts say, holds high prospects, if not squandered, as the world is fast boarding the information superhighway for transactions and interactions of all modes.

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