Ecommerce Scam: Customers yet to get Tk 600cr back
As many as 19,623 complaints against 50 e-commerce companies involving about Tk 600 crore filed with the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection (DNCRP) are pending, leaving the customers in a state of limbo over their money.
Of them, 16,204 pending complainants are against Evaly, Alesha Mart, E-orange, Dhamaka Shopping and Qcoom, companies that are as good as being defunct.
The highest number of complaints (10,978) have been filed against Evaly, followed by E-orange (6,017), Alesha Mart (2,157) and Dhamaka Shopping (618) as of February.
So far, just Tk 1 crore could be recovered from Alesha Mart, according to Mohammad Hasanuzzaman, assistant director for the complaint section of DNCRP.
But since December last year, Monzur Alam Sikder, chairman of Alesha Mart, has stopped all communication with the DNCRP, he said, adding that they have asked the law enforcers to file a case against Sikder.
The High Court-constituted Evaly board is yet to respond to the DNCRP's repeated communication over the settlement of consumers' complaints, he added.
The owners of many of the rogue e-commerce firms have left the country, according to AHM Shafiquzzaman, director-general of DNCRP.
"So the cases are taking longer to clear. Besides, some of the companies have taken the matter to the court. Until the court gives a verdict, DNCRP cannot do anything," he added.
The owners of E-orange, Dhamaka Shopping, RingID and Dalal Plus have left Bangladesh, said Tapas Kanti Baul, DNCRP's lawyer.
"They do not appear in court when the date of the hearing is called. From my career experience, I fear it will take a long time for the consumers to get their money back," Baul said.
At present, the ministry is paying the consumers from the money stuck in the payment gateways, said Md. Sayed Ali, deputy secretary for the Central Digital Commerce Cell of the commerce ministry.
At present, the ministry is paying the consumers from the money stuck in the payment gateways.
About Tk 525 crore of 27 e-commerce companies were stuck in the payment gateway.
After verification, Tk 361 crore was refunded to customers, Ali said.
"But the possibility of those who made purchases before June 30, 2021 is less," he added.
Cases filed against those e-commerce companies will be resolved through the legal process, said Sahab Uddin Shipon, vice-president of the e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-CAB).
The errant e-commerce companies' e-CAB membership has been suspended, he added.
"We are in the process of settling all complaints and are in contact with the commerce ministry over this," said Jashim Uddin Chishty, managing director of controversial e-commerce company Dhamaka Shopping.
Everything will be settled according to the laws of the land, he said.
"Hopefully we can solve this very soon," he added.
As much as 70 percent of the 1,097 complaints filed by consumers against Qcoom have been resolved, said Abul Kalam Azad, legal adviser of Qcoom.
"But the matter has not yet been officially reported to the DNCRP," he added.
Aman Ullah Chowdhury, chief executive officer of E-orange, along with founder Sonia Mehjabin are in jail, said Md Haider Tanviruzzaman, Chowdhury's lawyer.
"Due to this, complaints are not being resolved," he added.
If it takes a long time to settle customer complaints due to the cases, it will create a further negative impression on the e-commerce industry, said BM Mainul Hossain, professor of the Institute of Information Technology at the University of Dhaka.
The government should take a vigorous initiative to solve the cases pending with the court to bring back the trust of the customers, he added.
Alesha Mart and Evaly could not be reached for comment.