E-Commerce Sites: They’ll get payment after delivering items
Online shoppers can now make purchases with confidence after a commerce ministry decision yesterday that stipulated holding the payment of local e-commerce platforms until confirmation of safe delivery of items, adding a layer of consumer protection to the transaction.
At present, the merchants' payment is cleared within moments of the customer making the transaction with bank cards or the mobile financial services platform.
Payment will be cleared only after confirmation by the customer, Hafizur Rahman, director-general of the WTO Cell under the commerce ministry, told The Daily Star over the phone.
"If the payment gateways can be controlled effectively, no e-commerce site can cheat or make an unusual delay in delivery of goods as the companies will also need to wait for the payment," he added.
The commerce ministry will send a letter to the Bangladesh Bank on Sunday to work out the logistics of the decision, including how the confirmation of receipt of items would come from the customers.
The development comes after a recent Bangladesh Bank inspection report on the e-commerce juggernaut Evaly that sounded off the alarm bells.
As of March 14, Evaly, which has assets worth Tk 65.2 crore, had delivery pending on goods worth Tk 213.9 crore and owed about Tk 189.9 crore to merchants from whom it bought products.
Besides, Evaly owes another Tk 73 crore to customers in their digital wallets. But the company has only Tk 2 crore in deposits in 10 banks.
With its assets, Evaly can repay only one-third of its liabilities to customers.
And the constant rise in liabilities puts the organisation at the risk of collapsing, the report said, while raising concern on nine other e-commerce sites including Alesha Mart and Dhamaka Shopping.
This prompted Brac Bank, Bank Asia and Dhaka Bank to suspend the use of cards for making purchases on the 10 e-commerce sites.
The other sites are E-orange, Sirajganj Shop, Aladiner Prodip, Qcoom, Boom Boom, Adyen Mart and Needs.
City Bank, United Commercial Bank and LankaBangla Finance also notified their customers that they will not be held liable for any fraud while purchasing goods on the e-commerce sites using their cards.
Then in a meeting yesterday at the commerce ministry -- which was attended by representatives of the BB, the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, the National Board of Revenue, home affairs' ministry, the e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-CAB), MFS operators and banks -- the decision to hold payment came.
The move though can prove to be a hammer blow to the business model of Evaly, which is centred on taking payment from customers in advance.
However, Evaly welcomes the commerce ministry decision, said Mohammad Rassel, its chief executive officer.
The new payment mechanism was a proposal of the e-CAB to curb the anomalies by a section of the e-commerce platforms in the country, said its President Shomi Kaiser.
The decision will bring back discipline in the sector, said AKM Fahim Mashroor, chief executive of AjkerDeal, a leading e-commerce site.
"However, I think this decision should only apply to companies against which allegations have been made. Otherwise, many good e-commerce platforms will be in trouble."
If it is applied to all, there should be exemptions for certain small amount transactions, he added.
However, no decision was taken at the meeting yesterday of what actions would be taken, if any, against Evaly and the other e-commerce companies, according to Rahman.
Asked why the ministry did not take a call on the 10 e-commerce sites, he said: "The aim of the meeting was to prevent further anomalies by the e-commerce sites in future."