Wednesday, 27 October, 2021

Consumers losing faith in e-commerce

Consumers losing faith in e-commerce

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The recent e-commerce scams have eroded the consumers’ confidence in the thriving online business sector.

With technological advancement, expansion of the internet across the country and improvement in communications, e-commerce business flourished a lot in recent years, especially during the corona pandemic.

Local e-commerce of Tk 300 billion has brought about a big change to the lives and livelihood of people, city dwellers, in particular, creating employment opportunities for a large section of people.   

But further growth of the promising sector is at stake by the irregularities recently found in some e-commerce companies, including in Evaly, e-orange and Dhamaka and others, according to people involved in the e-commerce sector.

These incidents have created one kind of apathy among the consumers for online shopping as they are losing confidence in online trade, they said.

They think that a firm stance of the government in ensuring secured online shopping and safe financial transactions can help restore the consumers’ confidence.

“We admit that consumers have lost confidence in e-commerce to some extent in the context of the recent incidents,” commented the commerce ministry’s Additional Secretary Md Hafizur Rahman.

“We’re already trying to ensure that the digital commerce is operated under the new policies and none gets cheated,” he added. 

In the context of some e-commerce platforms’ failure in timely delivery of products, Bangladesh Bank introduced an escrow service so that online shoppers can cancel purchase orders at any time after ordering a product by paying the price in advance, and get a refund. Under the new rules, the payment gateway banks and financial institutions will keep the buyer's advance payment to themselves until the buyer is satisfied.

In an early July circular, the ministry of commerce also instructed e-commerce businesses to clearly mention the conditions of product or money refund, change and delivery deadline.

It also restricted multi-level marketing (MLM) or network business through digital commerce. No financial business can be conducted without the central bank’s approval or buyers can’t be compelled directly or indirectly to buy any products, it said.

Products put on display should be delivered within 48 hours of advance payment. The delivery will be the highest 5 days if the buyers and sellers stay in the same city or town, and in case the buyer is in rural areas, the time will be 10 days.   

On September 27, the commerce ministry formed a 16-member legal committee to formulate digital e-commerce law and a separate regulatory body.

It has been tasked with giving recommendations about overcoming the problems crippling the e-commerce sector and formulation of a draft law by the next two months.  

However, the leaders of the e-commerce trade body said strict enforcement of existing laws and rules instead of forming a new regulatory body will be more effective in curbing e-commerce fraud.  

Once the escrow service successfully comes into operation, payments of the consumers will remain safe, the commerce ministry high official said. “If the payment is safe, people will have confidence as well.”

Bangladesh Bank has already introduced an escrow service, but the commerce ministry is waiting for the automated one as the automated system will bring the risk to nearly zero, the official informed. 

E-commerce Association of Bangladesh (E-CAB) director Asif Ahnaf said: “We want to keep online shopping safe for the consumers.”

He suggested that the advance payment should be online payment—mobile banking or bank cards to make the payment safe. 

He criticized some e-commerce platforms, which are trying to avoid the new policy by asking their consumers for bank deposits, which he said is a trap of cheating.

He also suggested consumers for getting more aware of the e-commerce scams and chose sellers with a reputation as thousand of platforms may confuse them.