Another e-commerce scam unfolding
Qcoom has suspended its physical operations after hundreds of customers thronged its office in Dhaka, demanding products or refunds amid the e-commerce platform's failure to make deliveries within the promised dates despite receiving payments in advance.
With this, Qcoom has joined a growing list of e-commerce platforms that have stopped supplying products to their customers.
One of the customers is Shihab Jeshan.
The transport businessman ordered 15 motorcycles after seeing an ad offering hefty discounts on Qcoom on June 17. The platform confirmed that it would ship the products on July 18.
A few days later, the company pushed back the delivery date to August 24, citing the delays caused by the pandemic.
Qcoom could not keep its words this time as well, and when Jeshan contacted, it told him that the delivery would be made on October 4 as there was a shortage of products and the new escrow system.
Escrow is the use of a third party, which will pass the funds from one party to another when both fulfil their contractual requirements.
Now Jeshan is trying to get back the money he had paid to Qcoom.
Like Jeshan, thousands of customers who have ordered products online to the tune of hundreds of crores of taka are facing the same uncertainty.
This is the latest blow to the beleaguered e-commerce industry. Several online platforms took advance payments from customers by offering sky-high discounts but have failed to supply the products.
Before the suspension of the physical operations, hundreds of customers would throng the office of Qcoom in the capital's Gulshan area every day, asking it to hand over the products or make the refunds.
Amid customers' furry, the company, on September 17, informed them it was suspending the physical operations till September 30, and employees would provide services through home offices.
"If thousands of customers come to the office daily, how will we work? We are trying to deliver products quickly through a home office," said Ripan Mia, CEO of the company.
He blamed Foster Payments, a payment gateway service provider, for its current state.
He said Tk 420 crore had been stuck with Foster Payments since July, which included Tk 200 crore from 20,000 customers.
"However, we are making deliveries of all products except for motorcycles."
Md Serajul Islam, a spokesperson of the Bangladesh Bank, said there were allegations of irregularities against Foster Payments.
The Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit and the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) are investigating the allegations.
"A preliminary probe is underway against Qcoom. But we have not gathered enough information yet," Humayun Kabir, special superintendent of police of the financial crime unit of the CID, told the Daily Star.
"We will sue Qcoom if they are found to be involved in money laundering."
Foster Payments has no licence from the BB, although it processed the payments.
"Foster hasn't been given any licence from the Bangladesh Bank to carry out business," said BB's Islam.
"It has applied for a licence. The issue is pending."
However, in an email, Foster said it had the permission of the central bank.
"As per Bangladesh Bank, Foster Payments is allowed to provide payment gateway services in Bangladesh," said Muntasir Ahmed, deputy general manager at Foster Payments, in the email.
In regard to Qcoom and related issues, it said the gateway service provider was fully compliant with the laws of the BB and was closely working with the authorities.
"Foster's gateway is stuck, but it has nothing to do with Qcoom. It's because Foster couldn't explain some of its other transactions related to different businesses. Its account has been closed for suspected money laundering," said another BB official.
Another BB official said Foster had been providing payment gateway service for a while. But, the central bank has recently made it mandatory for banks to continue businesses with the payment gateways services that have a licence from the central bank.