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Bangladesh - Corporate - July 18, 2021

E-commerce in the custody

Syed Ishtiaq Reza:As the habit of buying things online grows, so do the pages of mass media and social media. The real business of today’s e-commerce stores is to delay the delivery of goods in the name of giving all the lucrative discounts, not to give the products at all, but to give them counterfeit, broken, damaged and substandard use items.
Online shopping platform Evaly is now in the headlines. This popular online store has failed to deliver products to customers with more liability than assets. Online shopping has been gaining popularity in Bangladesh for several years. In the beginning, it was the custom to pay for the product after getting it in hand. More shops, including Evaly, were offering products in advance. Millions of people flocked to Evaly, being attracted by the offers at an incredibly low price. However, the central bank launched an investigation when people lost their way after months of not getting the products even after paying the money.
At the request of the Ministry of Commerce, an inspection report of the central bank conducted on evaly.com.bd recently revealed some surprising information. Evaly’s debt to customers and merchants is Tk 403 crore and 70 lakh. In contrast, the company’s current assets are only Tk 65 crore and 17 lakh. The central bank has told the commerce ministry that the company is unable to repay more than six times its debt.
According to the report, till March 14 this year, Evaly did not deliver the goods with an advance of Tk 213.94 crore from the customers. On the other hand, the company owes Tk 179.75 crore to the merchants from whom Evaly buys products.
According to a report of Bangladesh Bank, it is possible to pay only 16.14 percent of the outstanding amount to the customers and creditors with the current assets of Evaly. The remaining 84 per cent or the equivalent of Tk 338.62 crore will remain unpaid.
With Evaly’s current asset status, it will only be possible to pay less than one-third of the customer’s liability.
After this report of the central bank, a storm arose with e-commerce. Noise around now. The question arose as to the type of business of several such online stores, including Evaly. In fact, panic has spread among the customers of other such stores. The return of the product or money becomes uncertain. People are calling the media to find out what the consequences are going to be like the chit fund company like Destiny, Youth or UniPay.
Is it possible that e-commerce is going to be buried in Bangladesh for the time being due to the uncertainty of hundreds or thousands of individual customers and merchant organizations providing goods? The answer is hard to say.
Corona started long ago, but this digital commerce continued to grow over Corona. Bangladesh Bank has made efforts to ensure transparency and accountability in the management of digital commerce. BB also issued some instructions. The central bank says that the general rules for displaying information and buying and selling information on goods and services for sale in the marketplace will apply to all the relevant laws of the country governing digital commerce.
The central bank has made it clear that multi-level marketing (MLM) business cannot be done through digital commerce or e-commerce.
In Bangladesh, everything eventually goes to the stage of irregularities and fraud. People no longer have confidence. Complaints against e-commerce sites are mounting in the consumer department. The highest number of allegations has been lodged against Evaly. The first of the frauds that the consumer department is talking about is not delivering the promised product or service properly. The second is not delivering the product on time.
Depending on the campaign, Evaly’s products will be delivered within 7 to 45 days. But that condition never means the organization. Sometimes the product is delivered in 60 days, sometimes in 90 days. Again the product is never given, the money is never refunded. Another allegation is that Evaly advertises one product and gives another. Gives a variety of interesting offers. These offers also include large discounts. Not only is Evaly doing this work, many more sites are doing it.
The problem is in two places. If the government regulates the e-commerce sector, the development of the sector will be severely hampered. The way the e-commerce sector has been growing in the last few years, the rate at which it is growing, the number of new entrepreneurs being created, too much control can have a negative impact on these issues. However, as the situation progresses, there is no substitute for a strong legal framework.
The problem in Bangladesh is that the people here are less educated and much more excited. Many people do not have the right knowledge to jump into the offer of discount and cash-back. The government is working on a legal framework. However, the role of those who are leading in the business community with e-commerce platform is a lot, especially of FBCCI. The Chamber leadership must take the initiative to bring this business within a transparent structure. And of course buyers have to be careful. Those who make unusual offers must learn to doubt. Payment can be controlled at least to some extent by making payments on systems like online cards or bkash-cash. Other than that, if buyers pay in advance, there could be problems.
The government has consumer-friendly policies and legal measures, but people’s own awareness is most important.
Author: Editor-in-Chief, GTV.

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