Chorus of complaints against rogue e-commerce firms
Lured by hefty discounts at e-commerce platform Eorange, Md Sahedul Islam, a private firm employee with a Tk 15,000 monthly income, borrowed Tk 13 lakh from family members, relatives and colleagues to make advance payments for five motorcycles in May and another three in June.
The platform was supposed to deliver the first five motorcycles in June and the rest by July. But he has not yet received any of his products.
Alarmed, he lodged a complaint with the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection (DNCRP) last month seeking either the products or a refund.
"I haven't received any notice from the DNCRP yet for a hearing," Islam told The Daily Star yesterday.
"In the hope of making some profit, I did it. Now I am in a very bad state as I am facing intense pressure to repay my debt," he said.
Unnerved by different government agencies' recent crackdown on dubious e-commerce entities, customers in the same quagmire have lodged around 6,000 complaints with the directorate in July and August seeking redress.
Evaly, Eorange and Dhamaka Shopping alone are accused in around 5,000 complaints. Only 12 per cent or 726 complaints have been settled so far.
From July till date, 2,643 complaints have been filed against Eorange. Only 33 or 1.24 per cent have been settled by the directorate.
Eorange founder Sonia Mehjabin and several of its officials have been in jail since their arrest on August 16 on charge of embezzling Tk 1,100 crore of customers.
Middle-aged Khairul Bashar paid Evaly in full for an Apple iPad worth Tk 32,000 on May 14. The e-commerce platform was supposed to deliver the product in a maximum of 45 days.
But this teacher of a private school is yet to get the smart device. He has talked to its customer care department over 10 times in the last 129 days.
Assurances were given that the product will be delivered soon but nothing materialised.
So Bashar filed a complaint with the directorate on August 22 demanding a refund.
The math teacher called up the directorate on September 5 to know whether there has been any development.
An official informed that they would work on the complaint after September 10 once the banking regulator takes a decision on the platform's frozen bank accounts.
Evaly, which has come under regulatory scrutiny recently for its business practices that include offers of unusually high discounts, accounts for the highest number of complaints among the top 18 online platforms.
In the last two months, customers logged 2,206 complaints against the company. Only 16 per cent or 350 have been settled so far.
Evaly Managing Director and CEO Mohammad Rassel and his wife and Chairman Shamima Nasrin were arrested last week on charges of embezzling customers' money.
Evaly recently responded to the commerce ministry's queries stating that it owed customers Tk 311 crore and merchants Tk 206 crore.
Another 250 complaints have been filed against Dhamaka Shopping.
Kawser Mahmood, who sells electric and electronic products in Mymensingh, paid Dhamaka Shopping Tk 2 lakh in June for six refrigerators.
He said the delivery date had already passed.
When he contacted the call centre, they informed of not knowing when those would be delivered.
"I am very worried. Tk 2 lakh is a huge amount for me," said Mahmood.
"About 99 per cent of the complaints against e-commerce platforms are over breaches of contract," said the directorate Director General Bablu Kumar Saha.
"For that, the maximum fine is Tk 50,000. If we impose the fine, the consumer will get only Tk 12,500. But in most cases, consumers ordered for products paying over Tk 10 lakh…it would be a loss for the consumer," he said.
"For the benefit of the customers, we try to settle it," he added.
He recommended learning more about e-commerce platforms before giving in to lucrative discounts to make purchases.