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Customers may face delay in refund

  • Staff Correspondent
  • 17 October, 2021 12:00 AM
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Customers may face delay in refund

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Ecommerce customers and merchants whose money got stranded at payment system operators may face delay to be repaid until the automation of the escrow service, said a Bangladesh Bank official.

The escrow service is now run manually.

However, the PSO operators will not take liabilities of the due payment before June 30, the last day of the previous fiscal year, the official said.

The remarks came at a meeting organized by E-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (E-CAB) on Friday.

Escrow is a financial tool to hold an asset or escrow money by a third party on behalf of two other parties that are in the process of completing a transaction.

“The PSO is included to the escrow system from July 1. The gateway companies are responsible to release the money held since July 1,” said Rafeza Akhter, deputy general manager of Bangladesh Bank.

“However, the ecommerce companies should take responsibilities to send back the money they owe to their customers until June 30,” she said.

Bangladesh Bank is working to automate the escrow service to release the stranded money of the customers and merchants, she said.

In Bangladesh, the escrow service was launched in July to tackle the fraudulence in ecommerce sector as many companies don’t deliver products despite receiving payment in advance.

In the very recent time, the unrest in ecommerce sector as controversial ecommerce company Evaly’s financial irregularities were exposed.

Later, some other platforms including Qcoom, Dhamaka, EOrange and Aleshamart were included on the list.

Addressing the policy talk on ecommerce, central bank official Rafeza Akhter said Bangladesh Bank directed the payment gateway to hold the money until the customers get delivery of the product from ecommerce companies. E-CAB organised the knowledge sharing session at Bangladesh Film   Archive auditorium in Dhaka on the backdrop of unrest in the sector.

According to the central bank official, the release of the money seems risky before automation of the escrow service of Bangladesh Bank.

At the meeting, policy makers and entrepreneurs laid emphasis on strengthening connectivity among the platforms, merchants and logistic companies.

Additional Commerce Secretary Hafizur Rahman expressed surprise over the response of customers to the controversial business model of Evaly.

“How do they go to buy goods there? We, the ministry, notified the weakness of the company (Evaly) a year ago,” he said.

“Then, the E-CAB was asked to caution the company so they solve the problem as many customers had already made payments to the platform,” he said.

Post Office director general Siraz Uddin suggested digitalisation of the logistic services through strengthening the state-run organisation.

Competition Commission chairman Md Mofizul Islam said the independent body will interfere in case of the unhealthy practices in market. He urged all to inform the Commission about the anti-competitive practices for ensuring a good environment in the sector. E-CAB president Shomi Kaiser said, “E-CAB is ready to work together with the government for expanding the digital commerce business across the country and beyond the border as well.”

E-CAB general secretary Abdul Wahed Tomal said, “There are huge amounts of money held at the gateway waiting for green signal of the Bangladesh Bank.”

“If the central bank tries to release the money in traditional way, the process may take months. We proposed for automation of the service to release the fund immediately.”

“If the ecommerce companies fail to deliver the product in 10 days, the fund will return to the customer’s account automatically,” he said.

BASIS former president Fahim Mashroor presented a comparative scenario between traditional and ecommerce businesses in the context of tax and policy supports.

Additional commerce secretary AHM Shafiquzzaman and Access to Information prorgamme’s head of ecommerce Rezwanul Haque Jami also took part in the policy talk.