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Corporate - December 5, 2021

e-commerce customers’ money back uncertain?

Golam Mostafa Jibon:Even after several assurances by the government, thousands of e-commerce customers are still facing uncertainty over getting back their money invested in the e-commerce sector. They are in fear that what is going to be happened of theirinvested money?
Though, the government is assuring to refund the money, the real scenario is not still in favor of the people, who lost the money, they claimed.
Sources said, thousands of customers, who paid advance money to different e-commerce companies in greed of attractive offers, are now moving door to door with a hope to get back the money.
Latest, the name of Alesha Mart has added to the fraud list, which has announced the closure of all official activities on excuse of insecurity since last few days. No official of the company could be found now. Earlier, at least a dozen of e-commerce companies including Evaly, e-Orange and Dhamaka had misappropriated crores of Taka from customers. Millions of poor customers are tired of paying back. They are hoping that the government will take necessary action to return the money. Many have given up hope of getting the product or money back, but to no effect.
Those concerned said that, there was an opportunity to take action against these e-commerce-based companies earlier. A year ago, the Ministry of Commerce set up a committee to investigate against such organizations, but the investigation was stopped due to invisible pressure. As a result, it took time for the instructions to come. The e-commerce association of Bangladesh (e-CAB), an organization of many policy makers and e-commerce traders, has got a share of the money lost by the companies.
Golam Rahman, President of the Consumer Association of Bangladesh (CAB) said, it was a long process. Such was the case with Unipay2u. However, it is not known whether anyone got the money. He said, there was a need to be more careful in investing in these controversial companies, adding that there were not only consumers but also some businessmen. Everyone should have done the job knowingly. There were also some legal limitations. Now the government has taken some measures to prevent such incidents in future.
Meanwhile, the government is thinking of returning the money to the deceived customers of e-commerce in three ways. The committee formed by the Commerce Ministry held a meeting recently in this regard. The committee has decided to send a letter to Bangladesh Bank to release the money deposited in the banks by the e-commerce companies. E-commerce companies that do not have a lawsuit will be reimbursed before their customers are stuck with the digital payment gateway after the launch of the escrow service. In the case of those against whom there is a case, the money will be refunded with the opinion of the Ministry of Law.
It is known that Alesha Mart started selling products online on January 1 in 2021. The e-commerce company runs a five-point campaign to sell various products including motorcycles at special discounts. In these campaigns, 45,000 customers ordered products. The products of the campaign are also delivered in four phases. However, in the fifth phase, Alesha Mart could not give motorcycles to the order of 7,300 customers. Against these orders, customers have stuck at least Tk 200 crore in the company. Alesha Mart collected motorcycles from SK Traders, dealer of Tejgaon area of Uttara Motors and gave them to the customers. The e-commerce company stopped giving motorcycles to Alesha from August due to increased surveillance and arrears. The concerned branches including the Ministry of Commerce have taken various steps on the basis of various complaints of customers against e-commerce companies including Evaly. As part of this, Alesha Mart took the time to return the money to the buyers when the concerned people started searching. Meanwhile, there are allegations that top officials have gone hiding when the customer care activities at the company’s head office in Banani were stopped.
Seeking anonymity, a senior official of the Ministry of Commerce said “If the action had been taken earlier, the loss of the customer would have been less. It would have been better to take action at that time.”
Refund Initiative: The committee formed to recover money from fraudulent customers through e-commerce has already taken some decisions. A decision was taken at a meeting on Thursday last. These are not just e-commerce; all types of businesses in the country are being brought under Unique Business Identification (UBI) in phases. Through this, the Ministry of Commerce thinks that it will be possible for the government to monitor all kinds of business establishments centrally up to the union level. In the case of UBIID, it will be mandatory to take Business Identification Number (BIN) issued by the National Board of Revenue (NBR) and BIN and Tax Identification Number (TIN) will also be attached to UBI. This will make it easier to collect revenue from business establishments up to remote areas. Head of the UBI Outline and Implementation Procedure Committee and Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Commerce Hafizur Rahman said, the registration has already started. In addition, e-commerce companies that do not have a lawsuit against their customers will be reimbursed at the digital payment gateway after the launch of the escrow service. Besides, in the case of those against whom there is a case, the money will be refunded with the opinion of the Ministry of Law. It is learned that a letter will be sent to Bangladesh Bank in this regard next week. While talking, a good number of customers, who were victims of swindling, urged the authorities concerned to take immediate step to recover their money from the fraudsters.

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