Ehsan Aleem Avee, a resident of Mirpur, purchased a series of products online on Apr 28 as he chose to stay indoors in the coronavirus pandemic. Some products arrived in phases. Three months in, Avee is still waiting for a refund of Tk 1,900 for undelivered products, despite raising complaints with the e-commerce company’s customer care desk.
The pandemic has brought a significant change to customer behaviour forcing them to shop online. But complaints are piling up: low-quality products, slow delivery and delayed and complicated refunds.
The Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection is now receiving more complaints about online shopping than ever before, reports bdnews24.com.
There is no immediate end to this. Some say e-commerce must be brought under a legal framework. And e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh or e-CAB agrees. For its part, the government is working on introducing a coordinated system to settle disputes.
Online shopping that began in 2011 in Bangladesh received a shot in the arm after the central bank opened the national payment switch.
Amin Al Rasheed, who works for a private TV channel, said he felt “cheated” when he bought a television set from an e-commerce site.
“I bought a 40-inch LG TV using the credit card EMI system from online shop Daraz. Once I received it last night, I found the package, manual, remote, and nothing belongs to the LG brand. Only the TV has LG written on it. The TV stand is the wrong one, while they didn't give a wall hanger. When the delivery man installed it, we found the picture quality very low.”
“So, it means that the entire product is a fake, right? My question is, how can an established company like Daraz do such things?" Rasheed wrote on Facebook.
Rasheed later returned the television set to Daraz's Dhanmondi office, as the company suggested. Daraz said it would look into the complaint and refund him in 7-15 days if it is proved.
"They will take time to refund me and I'll have to continue paying the credit card EMI, even if they pay me later. But the question is, who will compensate me for the mental pain I went through?”
Shameem Ara Sheuli, another customer who shopped from Daraz, shared her suffering on Facebook on Jun 20.
"I thought I would give it a try and ordered four products though my friends gave a bad review. Since the coronavirus epidemic is on, I don’t want to go out shopping. But I had to leave home four times for four products and two products were delivered in the wrong size. I have to travel to Dhanmondi in case I want to return them. I can't risk my life for a few products," she wrote.
Ira D'costa, an employee of a private company, bought a few products, including a keyring from a Facebook-based online shop. She got her products delivered on time but the keyring was rusted.
"I ordered it, finding it attractive. I never imagined that I would be cheated. They have finally changed the product after I contacted them several times. But I have already suffered my part of the trouble," Ira said.
bdnews24.com asked Daraz about the complaints from their customers and contacted Shayantani Twisha, head of communications.
In many cases, the delivered product does not seem to be the same as ordered. bdnews24.com asked Daraz about such complaints raised by their customers. The customers also complained about the delay in responding to their complaints.
"First of all, we give the highest priority for the complaints from our customers and deal with each of those equally. We are well aware of the present circumstances where only a few of our partners are not fulfilling the original order requirements. We have employed a professional group to monitor and ensure that these incidents are never repeated. Mostly, these cases fall under our hassle-free return policy and customers can easily return the products to their nearest drop-off station, or we can pick up from the delivery location," Daraz said.
bdnews24.com also asked about the delay in the refund process, especially when customers pay by credit card or bKash. Some customers said they face the delay.
“According to our company rules, we make a refund in 10 to 14 days. A customer can always call the Daraz help desk if they face any trouble."
"In fact, the delay is caused by the bank if you pay by debit or credit card. It would take less time if we pay the customer directly. But we send the money to the bank and it gets stuck there. A large part of our customers pay by bKash. Earlier, it took much longer to make a refund through bKash, but now they have improved the service," said Fahim Mashrur, founder of Ajker Deal, an e-commerce site.
He urged Bangladesh Bank to take the necessary steps to ease the rules of refund by card. "Customers will get their refund in no time if Bangladesh Bank gives a directive to all banks," he said.
E-CAB WANTS LAW IN PLACE
The government introduced the National Digital Commerce Policy in 2018, but yet there is no regulatory framework for e-commerce. The commerce ministry, however, has an e-commerce cell.
“We sat down with the commerce ministry several times. We worked with the e-commerce cell on complaint management. We gave some proposals on how to ensure the consumers’ rights while establishing an automated system. That will make sure the customers file their complaints properly and merchants can deal with those seriously,” said Abdul Wahed Tomal, general secretary of the executive committee of e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh.
“We have a policy but urged the government to design a law. It is true that online shopping has increased, but in many cases, customers are cheated, especially, in Facebook-based shopping. Those merchants are not members of the e-CAB. We have 1,200 members. We really need a legal framework or else people won’t trust us.”
More complaints are coming up, said Bikash Chandra Das, deputy director of the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection. “We’re working on those complaints following our policy.”
The government plans to introduce a coordinated complaint management system, said Commerce Secretary Md Jafar Uddin. “Of course, there is a need for a framework.”
Before the government makes a law, e-CAB should create a draft first and follow the best practices, said Golam Rahman, president of Consumers Association of Bangladesh.
“e-CAB can create a draft and give it to the government. Before that, they should practise it themselves.”
The consumers should be aware of forgery or other troubles and should seek support from the government, he said.