Service quality of the country's e-commerce entities has regularly been deteriorating as around 30,000 complaints have been lodged with the government agency concerned in the last few years.
Of the complaints against leading 47 e-commerce companies and hundreds of Facebook-based entities, more than 56 per cent were yet to be settled, depicting a gloomy future of the business in the era of the fourth industrial revolution, said, insiders.
The complaints were filed with the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection between July 2017 and September 2022 against 47 companies and a few hundred Facebook-based entities, according to the directorate.
Two defaulter companies which have almost stopped their operations - Evaly and Eorange - jointly comprise nearly half of the complaints, while running businesses like Daraz, foodpanda, ajkerdeal.com, chaldal.com, priyoshop.com, othoba.com, Uber, pathao, bikroy.com, nirapod.com, dhamalkashoping.com, monohor.com, sirajganjshop.com, backpack.com and some Facebook pages have earned a good number of complaints during the period.
However, settlement of the complaints against Daraz, foodpanda, ajkerdeal.com, chaldal.com, priyoshop.com, othoba.com, Uber, pathao, bikroy.com and nirapod.com were much more satisfactory - from 61 to 96 per cent of the complaints against the respective businesses, said an official at consumer rights protection directorate.
But some companies, including dhamakashoping.com, monohor.com, sirajganjshop.com, backpack.com, Alesha Mart, dalalplus.com, adianmart, aladinerprodip.com and pickaboo.com, have settled only 10-20 per cent of the complaints against them, he said.
He said customers had submitted more than 5,000 complaints against different Facebook-based business entities.
Settlement rates of the Facebook entities are good, but many of them are completely ignoring the government agency hearing, he added.
Director General of the consumer rights protection directorate AHM Shafiquzzaman told the FE that they were going to take necessary actions against the entities that are cheating customers and ignoring the government notices.
Every customer has the right to get justice against fraudulent activities by any company or entity, he mentioned.
A senior journalist working for a leading newspaper in the country ordered five pairs of socks from an online-based entity, named Jeans Fellow Footwear, on February 1, 2022 and paid Tk 900 the same day.
The company based at Mirpur DOHS was yet to deliver the product even after eight months, so he lodged a complaint with the directorate on August 1 last.
"The money I spent is not such a big amount, but I want the authority to take immediate and strict actions against such errant platforms so that many people like me do not get cheated by them," he said.
Abu Saleh Mohammad Nasim Joy from Rupganj in Narayanganj lodged a complaint against the same company in June 2022 for not getting two of his orders - one in July 2021 and another on November 21.
He paid Tk 1,902 and Tk 2,900, respectively, for shoes but didn't get the products until the filing of the case in June 2022.
According to an official of the consumer rights protection directorate, more than 30 complaints were lodged against the company in the last couple of months - of them, hardly one or two could be settled.
Contacted, Chief Executive Officer of Jeans Fellow Footwear Apurba Das told the FE that he usually sells imported Chinese footwear.
The supply of the products was disrupted amid a lockdown in China, resulting in a collapse in shipment in the last four months.
Mr Das claimed he was trying to settle down by repaying the amount or offering products to the customers.
He said his company had a turnover of Tk 9.0 million in 2021.
Hundreds of customers also filed complaints against many online-based companies like qcoom.com, dalalplus, dhamaka, JadurJini, shurjopay, aamarpay, ananderbazar, and bdtickets.com.
Settlement rates of those complaints range from zero to 15 per cent, according to the Directorate.
The data shows that more than 6,000 complaints were lodged against the e-commerce platform Eorange with the directorate - the company could settle only 33 of them.
The much-talked-about company Evaly, whose operation is now suspended, had earned more than 10,000 complaints; of which, 41 per cent could be settled.
Vice president of e-commece association of Bangladesh (e-CAB) Mohammad Sahab Uddin, told the FE that the Association had suspended the membership of 11 entities engaged in fraudulence.
He said: “We have now above 1800 registered members. The Association would take stern action against any company found guilty of deceit”.
He said there is a problem as more than 0.22 million Facebook pages are active in business but there is no data or inventory of the entities.
The government should work to make a central list of the entities so that legal action could be taken against any wrongdoings, he said.
He said the country is still lagging behind in the postal system. The government-run postal service has been improving but at a slow rate.
Making the government postal department an active and competitive one could minimise carrying costs more than by 50 per cent.
He also put a high emphasis on government initiatives to explore rural and cross-border e-commerce to boost further healthy business.
However, poor service delivery, embezzlement as well as poor response to customers by the local e-commerce platforms have been reflected in the global e-commerce ranking as Bangladesh slipped to 12 notches on the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Business-to-Consumer (B2C) E-commerce Index 2020, the greatest drop among South Asian countries.
With a better position of 88th in 2018, it fell to 103rd in 2019 and a drastic slip happened in 2020 as Bangladesh dropped to 115th position in the ranking.