A move to bring the country's courier service operators under monitoring and regulation still remains a far cry as the concerned authority is functioning with inadequate manpower.
Amid rapid growth of courier business by private sector companies, the 'Mailing Operator and Courier Service Rules, 2013' was adopted in November 2013 and Mailing Operator and Courier Service authority was formed in February, 2014.
But the move hardly brought any changes for the sector, the people in the business said.
Only 55 domestic courier operators took license from the authority till date although the number could be as many as 500.
The Courier Service Association of Bangladesh (CSAB) has become a part of the authority following the new law as getting a membership of the association is a precondition for securing a license.
But only 55 members of 115-member association got licenses from the authority so far.
According to the law, agencies of courier service operators also require a license. But not a single agency took license to date.
Contacted, CSAB president Hafizur Rahman Pulok said new members are not interested to spend money on licenses and its renewal as an already-licensed operator does not get any protection from the authority.
"There are around 500 domestic courier services doing business and the authority does not care to bring them under its watch," he said raising question why the licensed operator would pay money if they do not get protection from the authority.
He said the association members are losing business to unlicensed courier service operators as they always offer lesser prices.
The courier service operators also stopped paying compensation fees to the authority as they termed the clause in the law as 'funny'.
The law says courier service operators have to pay 0.20 paisa to the authority per package they carry as the government thinks the private sector is harming the government's postal service by doing business.
"Is there any private sector business in the country that pays compensation to the government after incurring loss? This is the funniest-ever law," Mr Pulok exclaimed.
The license-issuing authority was formed with the Posts and Telecommunications Ministry Additional Secretary as its chairman, Additional Director General of the Postal Department as the member secretary of the authority while Deputy Secretary of the ministry is its member. But they are all ex-officio.
Mr Humayun Kabir is the only person who works fulltime at the Mailing Operator and Courier Service Authority.
Identifying himself as an accountant of the authority, he told the FE that the organogram of the authority is still lying at the ministry for approval.
Talking about mandatory license for courier service business, he said, there are several hundred courier services doing business without license.
"But it is not up to us. Police will see if there is any courier service operator doing business without license. We don't have police," he said.
The recent development in digital communication and electronic money transfer hit the courier service business hard but e-commerce compensated the loss.
"We used to receive 1,000 documents from Sonali Bank every day to send those across the country seven years back. Now it has come down to 500 due to digitalisation," said Uttam Kumar Gupta, general manager of the country's Continental Courier Service.
"But digitalisation compensated the loss. Now the sector is getting increased volume of business from e-commerce though we mainly carry documents," he said.
According to officials in the CSAB office, some of the biggest e-commerce firms have applied for association memberships as they want to carry their own goods to customers.
The police department often alleges that the courier service operators in the country carry arms, ammunition, drugs and other contraband goods.
CSAB President Pulok said there must be coordination among courier services, the authority and law-enforcing agencies.
"We asked law-enforcing agencies to provide scanner machine to scan goods but fruitlessly," he said.
Mr Pulok said smugglers are sending drugs and other banned goods by giving false declarations to pass them off as 'mango baskets' or such harmless commodities.
The law enforcement agencies have seized a few of such dubious parcels.
The authority hoped that around Tk 500 million will be collected as license, agency permission and compensatory fees in the first year while the collection would gradually increase in the coming years with the license renewal process.
But they could make only a few millions in the last three years, according to the association.
Of the major duties and responsibilities, the license issuing authority issues licenses to mailing operators and courier service providers alongside providing consent for agency operations, realising license, agency permission and other compensatory fees.
The government works out its collection method, determining the standard of services provided by mailing operators and courier service providers as well as monitoring of those.
Under the rules, mailing operators and courier service providers are classified into three categories - domestic mailing operator and courier service provider, on-board mailing operator and courier service provider and international mailing operator and courier service provider.
There are 27 on-board and 61 international courier services operating their businesses in the country besides domestic couriers.
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