E-commerce platform Daraz Bangladesh Limited, a concern of Chinese conglomerate Alibaba Group, wants to run some programmes that resemble 'lottery'. But the Digital Commerce Operation Guidelines 2021 prohibits such programmes to save consumers from being deceived, officials said.
In a recent letter to the Ministry of Commerce (MoC), the company sought cooperation to hold its annual 'Eleven Eleven (11.11)' campaign and 'Spin the Wheel' contest, which the ministry found might not comply with the guidelines.
Daraz Bangladesh's 'Eleven Eleven' campaign is a 1.0-taka game. "The 1.0-taka game is essentially a chance to win lucrative prizes, where customers can participate in a skill-based contest by paying 1.0 taka registration fee," it said.
Following the registration, the participants are required to take part in a quiz contest. Based on accuracy and time of response the winners of the contest are selected.
The registration fee of the participants, who would fail to win the quiz contest, would be refunded, Daraz mentioned in the letter.
About 'Spin the Wheel', it said in this contest, customers get the opportunity to participate by commenting during the live session to win exciting gifts from the wheel. These contests require the participants to have certain skills, intelligence and promptness to win, the company added.
"The contests are conducted in compliance with the recently-published SOP (standard operating procedure) for digital commerce by the MoC."
However, the ministry officials said since Tk 1.0 is being collected in the name of the registration fee, the campaign is in violation of the guidelines.
Section 3.1.8 of the guidelines mentioned that digital commerce companies would not be able to hold lottery or raffle draws without prior permission from the government. If they do so, Section 294 (B) of the Penal Code 1860 would be applicable.
Director General of MoC WTO Cell Hafizur Rahman told the FE on Tuesday that he requested Daraz not to collect any taka for the contest.
"If they do not follow the request, it won't be a right move. Taking money will create confusion whether the programme is a lottery or not. Daraz is free to hold any competition."
Mr Rahman said the company wants to brand it as a competition. But, if it selects customers randomly by following any lottery-type procedure, that will be violation of the guidelines.
But if Daraz engages customers in different stages by providing some questions or works that will be a competition.
'Spin the Wheel' programme is also misleading, and Daraz has been asked not to run it, he added.
Chief Corporate Affairs Officer of Daraz Bangladesh Limited A H M Hasinul Quddus (Rusho) told the FE that Daraz did not seek any approval from the ministry, since there is no provision of taking approval to hold such programmes.
"The SOP said no random selection can be held. So, we are holding quiz contest, which many Bangladeshi companies are carrying out."
There is no provision in the SOP that collection of the registration fees is prohibited.
On 'Spin the Wheel', he said the MoC gave an observation about the contest that the view of the programme looks like a lottery, "though we are not holding any lottery".
"Since the ministry did not respond positively, we did not run the programme," Mr Rusho noted.
Daraz has run 'Eleven Eleven' campaign on its website, but the game will start in November.
He did not receive any formal letter from the ministry on this issue but had verbal communications with the officials concerned.