Promotion and spread of e-commerce are now gaining popularity all over the world but the picture is exactly the opposite in our country and this has become our gravest concern in recent times. At a time when e-commerce business is undergoing a groundbreaking change in the corona situation around the world, there are many complications with this in our country and there is a crisis of faith among the general consumers. China and the Western world have already revolutionized e-commerce, and online shopping has multiplied the global consumer appeal, and the Western world has already been able to strengthen a variety of e-commerce fields. Large e-commerce companies such as Amazon and Walmart have delivered products during Corona epidemic to the homes of customers with honesty and integrity. But in Bangladesh, some e-commerce companies have created various types of fraud traps to deceive consumers. E-commerce companies became very popular in Bangladesh, but suddenly some e-commerce companies including Evaly and e-orange were accused of fraud and other charges. In the last three months, 22,000 complaints have been lodged against e-commerce companies in Bangladesh. The head of sales of an e-commerce company Qcoom has been arrested for embezzling money without delivering the products and cheating customers. Bank accounts of some e-commerce companies have been seized on charges of cheating with customers and investigations are underway against them.
Legal action is being taken against the e-commerce companies that are cheating the customers and this is good news but the question is how these e-commerce companies have been carrying out such propaganda for so long by deceiving everyone in front of our eyes. If these e-commerce companies had been closely monitored from the beginning, perhaps so many customers would not have been deceived. However, legal action is being taken against these unscrupulous e-commerce companies, albeit belatedly, and no one will be harmed in the future.
Some e-commerce companies have started offering all sorts of unusual promises to attract customers and then it has been seen that they are failing to deliver the products as per the demand despite taking advance money and they are not delivering the products on time but giving low quality products and cheating the customers in various ways.
The Government of Bangladesh and the law enforcement agencies have taken strict action against the unscrupulous e-commerce companies and as a result the customers who were deceived are able to recover some money from these e-commerce companies. It is the expectation of all of us to create entrepreneurs in the country through e-commerce, but cheating in the name of creating entrepreneurs is not desirable at all, so those who have violated e-commerce policy must ensure exemplary punishment.
Financial security needs to be strengthened to regulate e-commerce and new plans need to be devised on how to uphold consumer rights. However, due to the strict surveillance of the government, Bangladesh Bank and the law enforcement agencies, discipline has already returned to the e-commerce sector and the real e-commerce companies have become optimistic again. Some officials of these unscrupulous e-commerce companies have been arrested by the law enforcement agencies and their confessions show that the accused have embezzled more than taka 1,500 crore. According to E-Cab, e-commerce companies had a turnover of taka 560 crore in 2016, but this year it is expected to have a turnover of more than taka 20,000 crore.
E-cab currently has 1620 members, but it is guessed that there are more than 5,000 e-commerce sites outside the organization. The number of e-commerce traders and entrepreneurs based on Facebook page is around one lakh. E-Cap has recently suspended the membership of eight organizations due to scams. The Ministry of Commerce has formed a sub-committee to discuss whether new laws needed to regulate e-commerce. The Bangladesh National Consumer Protection Act and the Digital Security Act exist and it is being considered whether e-commerce regulation can be added to these laws.
Digital Bangladesh was once a dream for us but now it is a reality. In order to build a digital Bangladesh, we must bring the fields of e-commerce under control; otherwise people will fall into more traps. Some unscrupulous e-commerce companies have done a lot of damage to the real e-commerce companies and the potential of e-commerce and business is facing a huge challenge in Bangladesh. In order to restore the confidence and popularity of e-commerce companies in Bangladesh, it is necessary to take a strong stand against fraudulent companies and overcome the weaknesses of the existing laws.
No separate law has been enacted for e-commerce in Bangladesh. All the laws that exist for business and commerce were applicable to e-commerce but due to lack of strict application and practice, some e-commerce companies made trap and cheated consumers. The e-commerce regulatory body must play a responsible role and implement the guidelines that are being issued by Bangladesh Bank and the regulatory body must increase its capacity.
The e-commerce regulatory body must overcome its weaknesses and the laws that deal with transactions must be more closely monitored. All the mistakes that have been made must be investigated. If the responsible agencies of e-commerce took timely action and if there was proper coordination, such incidents would not happen again, so it is very important to find out where there was laxity and where there was incoherence. There must be coordination among the regulators of e-commerce and at the same time consumers must be made aware and if this can be done then e-commerce companies will regain their popularity in the country.
The writer is an Assistant Professor, B A F Shaheen College, Dhaka Cantonment