Govt mulls policy on food delivery
With the demand for food delivery through online purchase growing fast, the government is planning to frame a policy in order to streamline the business and protect interests of all the actors in the chain, including customers and suppliers.
The plan comes following pleas from restaurant operators demanding a policy on allegations that food delivery companies charge a high rate of commission to deliver foods.
Restaurant owners said food delivery platforms charge as much as 40 per cent commission for delivery of foods to customers' doorsteps and the rate is too high for them to make profit.
"This a new area of business in our country. So, we are holding meetings with stakeholders to formulate a policy. Some stakeholders have also demanded a policy for the sector," said Hafizur Rahman, additional secretary to the commerce ministry.
He said bill payments and commission were a major problem.
The move comes at a time when the burgeoning e-commerce sector faces setbacks in the wake of complaints of fraudulence against some digital commerce firm.
There are allegations of delayed or non-delivery of goods against some companies such as Evaly, eorange and dhamakha.
In order to streamline the sector, the commerce ministry framed a guideline on e-commerce to protect the rights of online shoppers, curb anomalies on payments and refund, and ensure timely delivery.
Restaurant operators said delivery companies do not make payments on time after collecting the food and sometimes it takes one month to as much as two-and-a-half months.
In this situation, it is becoming difficult for restaurant owners to run their business, leaders of the restaurant owners association said, according to the minutes of a recent meeting held in the commerce ministry.
Currently, Bangladesh has nearly a dozen of food delivery platforms and they altogether deliver 100,000 parcels of food daily mainly in Dhaka and Chattogram.
Foodpanda, Pathao, E-Food, Hungrynaki, e-Courier and US Food Mart Ltd BD are some of the delivery platforms that supply mainly fast food, kebab, and local foods such as biriyani and khichuri.
But most of these companies do not have their own chefs or arrangements to supply quality readymade food according to the needs and tastes of the buyers, said sector insiders.
As a result, delivery companies have to go to fast food shops of popular brands or quality restaurant to get the order of food demanded by the buyer online.
And this is where the various incidents of irregularities are happening.
The value of daily orders is Tk 5.70 crore. The annual turnover of this sector is more than Tk 2,052 crore, said Jahangir Alam Shovon, general manager of the e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-CAB).
Due to the dissatisfaction of restaurant owners, online food delivery companies take ready-made food from fast food shops or restaurants on contract from time to time.
On the other hand, the delivery companies get paid by the buyer or consumer as soon as the readymade food is delivered.
Besides, delivery charge is also being collected in cash. But they are taking one to two and a half months to pay the companies that provide the money, said Imran Hasan, secretary general of Bangladesh Restaurant Owners' Association (BROA).
As a result, the owners of the catering restaurants are in crisis, as they have not received payments on investing their cash, Hasan said.
"The arbitrariness of delivery companies is not limited to delays in payment of arrears. They are also deducting high commission while making payment. In this case, they are taking minimum 35 to 40 per cent from the price as commission. The amount of commission is even higher in some cases," Hasan also said.
According to the minutes of the recent meeting, Fahim Ahmed, president of Pathao, said they have been doing business following the rules and favoured formulation of an acceptable policy protecting the interests of all.
At the meeting, Md Sirajul Haque, head of sales at Foodpanda, said Foodpanda was engaging in agreements with restaurant owners.
Md Mesbah ul Arif, representative of Hungrynaki, said the whole sector were getting the blame because of irregularities by a few companies, according to the minutes of the meeting.
Although the companies are unhappy, they are not able to bypass the delivery companies due to the increasing reliance on them online, he also said.