Commerce ministry keeps passing the buck
The commerce ministry has for many years been failing to recover money from fraudulent companies even though the companies are registered with it.
Legal action has been taken against owners of such companies, but there was no record of money recovered from such companies to pay back the affected consumers.
For instance, the commerce ministry could not recover money from Destiny Group, a multi-level marketing (MLM) company, in which thousands invested and incurred losses. The owner of Destiny was sent to jail.
Similarly, money was not recovered and paid back to consumers and merchants of UniPay2U and Jubok, two fraudulent MLM companies.
Every time such incidents of companies defrauding its clientele take place, the commerce ministry says recovering money from the companies is not its responsibility.
The ministry only holds some meetings and passes the buck to other ministries, like law and home, for taking punitive action against the companies.
However, those companies were registered with the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies and Firms (RJSC) under the commerce ministry.
The commerce ministry has once more been inactive regarding the fraudulent activities of 10 e-commerce companies. It is again saying that the home ministry will take punitive actions against the wrongdoers.
Therefore, consumers and merchants again face being cheated by the errant e-commerce companies.
Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi in a briefing Wednesday said the government cannot recover the money from e-commerce companies as it did not take money from the people and also did not enjoy the profits of the businesses.
Instead, the commerce ministry has been taking some measures to be implemented soon so that people are not cheated by any fraudulent companies in future.
The minister also said people should keep their greed in check in order to avoid being cheated in this manner.
Ahsanul Karim, a Supreme Court lawyer, said in most cases, owners of the companies are sent to jail and money is not recovered.
"In such cases the commerce ministry can form a board or appoint an administrator to run the companies so that the companies can start making profits and pay back consumers and merchants," Karim said.
The commerce ministry is responsible for recovering funds from fraudulent companies as those are registered under the RJSC, a body under the commerce ministry.
Filing criminal cases against wrongdoers is the only form of action available under the current legal framework as there are currently no specific legal measures for e-commerce in the country, said Mohammad Golam Sarwar, assistant professor of law department of the University of Dhaka.
So, it is very simple that the commerce ministry will also try to evade its responsibility, Sarwar said.
There is no precedence of paying back the money by those fraudulent companies, he said.
Punishing the frauds is just a form of eyewash, Sarwar also said.
Here consumers, investors and merchants also have the responsibility to make sure they are not manipulated by any errant company.
"Let buyers beware," he said.
Sayeeda Anzu, professor of law department at Rajshahi University, said the commerce ministry cannot evade responsibility for recovering money from such companies to pay back affected investors, consumers and merchants.
The commerce ministry should file money laundering cases and those under the Digital Security Act so that owners of errant e-commerce companies are punished and money can be recovered, Sayeeda Anzu said.