Big promise, bigger deception
It calls its hefty discount offers tornado, typhoon, kalbaishakhi (Nor'wester), conflagration and Tufan (hurricane) and sells mobile phones, flats, cars and whatnot.
With these outrageous offers of up to 45 per cent and the promise that deliveries would be made within 30 days, e-commerce platform Dalal Plus was able to convince customers to make advance payments on their purchases.
Now, numerous customers allege that products are not being delivered on time, with some even taking several months to arrive.
Dalal Plus is just another addition to the growing list of local e-commerce platforms that have failed to ensure timely deliveries despite having received advance payments.
Sultan Hamid, a recent university graduate in Tangail, was left without work amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic until he decided to become a reseller.
The term "reseller" is now widely used in the domestic e-commerce community to refer to people who buy products online and then resell them to end customers for a profit.
Hamid had ordered 46 high-end smartphones on Dalal Plus, paying Tk 50,000 in advance following a 50 per cent discount on the purchase.
He had borrowed most of this money from family members, while the rest was earned through tutoring students.
"Three months have already passed since I placed the order, and Dalal Plus changed the delivery date on many occasions but never made them," Hamid told The Daily Star on Sunday.
"I'm going through a very bad time."
At different times during its operation, Dalal Plus offered cars of various brands with discounts of up to 35 per cent.
In April, the company offered a 45 per cent discount on motorcycles on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr.
Md Muktadir, a resident in Gazipur, ordered a Walton-branded refrigerator on Dalal Plus on June 28 with a 50 per cent discount but is yet to receive the product.
"I have called over the phone many times and emailed them requesting for the delivery. They said they would get the product very soon but keep changing the delivery date," Muktadir said, adding that he now feels frustrated with having paid in advance.
On September 25, multiple phone calls were made to the personal mobile number of SM Rabbi Al-Mamun, chief executive officer of Dalal Plus, and it was found switched off.
A reporter from The Daily Star visited the company's office in Dhanmondi on Sunday.
Once inside, an employee of the platform asked for the reporter's business card before saying he could leave and that the company would contact him later. No contact was made as of filing of this report last night.
However, the reporter found over a dozen customers waiting in a room to inquire about why they had not received their products on time.
Upon seeing this, the reporter asked the Dalal Plus official assigned to deal with these grievances how many orders the company had received so far, how many of them were settled, and why some deliveries took several months.
He did not reply.
An official of the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection said there were 20 complaints against Dalal Plus, and only six complaints have been resolved so far.
Hafizur Rahman, an additional secretary and head of the Digital Commerce Cell at the commerce ministry, could not be reached for comments.
But another official of the ministry said it was yet to launch an investigation into the platform.
An official of the Criminal Investigation Department of police said it had not received any request from the commerce ministry to investigate Dalal Plus.
"However, we have got many complaints against the company, so we asked for information about it from some government agencies," he added.
In a recent post on its official Facebook page, Dalal Plus acknowledged some of the cheques that it had given to customers as refunds were bouncing.
"But customers should not worry, and they will get their money or products soon."
The platform blamed 'a new policy' that was forcing it to take extra time to transfer money from the payments gateway to banks.
Dalal Plus said a big amount of its money had been stuck with a payment gateway aggregator which it stopped using three to four months ago. Due to a new delivery verification process, a large amount of funds is now stuck with its current payment gateway, the e-commerce platform said.
Initiated in January this year, Dalal Plus is not a member of the e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-CAB).
Muhammad Abdul Wahed Tomal, general secretary of the e-CAB, said: "We have sent a letter to the commerce ministry, informing it about Dalal Plus's suspicious activities. Since it's not a member of the e-CAB, the matter is no longer under our jurisdiction."
"We heard about many customer complaints about Dalal Plus. Since they are not our member, we can't give them any warning. Government agencies should take care of this."