Now the repayment of the escrow faces uncertainty

There appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel for e-commerce customers nationwide – at least for now – to get their money back which has either been scammed or now stuck with payment gateways. .

Authorities cannot specify when and how unsuspecting customers, who have made prepayments through the mandatory escrow service and have been assured of a refund within ten days, will be reimbursed a whopping total of 214 crore. Tk through the gateways.

Although the Commerce Ministry recently asked the Bangladesh Bank to start reimbursing customers of e-commerce businesses that are not the subject of any lawsuits, government agencies say they do not have a list suggesting who was prosecuted and who are not.

“We will hold a meeting on Tuesday to determine how customers can be reimbursed. If we are unsuccessful, we will ask the High Court on February 28 to guide us,” said Md Sayed Ali, head of the e-commerce cell and deputy secretary of the department. trade. department, told The Business Standard.

The Commerce Ministry issued an e-commerce directive in June this year requiring delivery or refund within ten days for advance payments, as allegations of embezzlement and fraud have surfaced against some 50 companies. e-commerce players, including market giants such as Evaly, E-orange and Dhamaka. .

During this month, the central bank also mandated the escrow system with the aim of preventing embezzlement and e-commerce fraud. The system acts as a third party that receives the customer’s money, holds it, and pays it to the seller once delivery is confirmed. If the delivery fails, the system returns the deposit paid by customers.

According to the Bangladesh Bank, e-commerce customers have paid more than Tk 505 crore through third-party payment gateways until October 14 since the central bank launched it on June 30. Gateways released around Tk291 crore for sellers, while around Tk214 crore still gets stuck.

Of this amount, the Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU) froze Tk 166 crore of e-commerce company Qcoom at the request of the police. Qcoom’s payment gateway Foster cannot refund the money until the Police Department of Criminal Investigation (CID) issues the unlock order.

Apart from Foster another Tk48 crore is blocked with SSL, shurjoMukhi, bKash, Nagad and Southeast Bank.

Reimburse unsuccessful efforts

On October 25, after a meeting with Minister of Law Anisul Huq and Minister of Interior Asaduzzaman Khan, Minister of Commerce Tipu Munshi announced the prompt repayment of Tk 214 crore. Shortly thereafter, the Ministry of Commerce sent a letter to the Ministry of Interior and the Bangladesh Bank requesting that Qcoom’s Tk166 crore be released with Foster.

However, the amount has not yet been released. Foster was summoned to the Commerce Department meeting on Tuesday.

On October 28, the Bangladesh Bank sent a letter to the Ministry of Commerce asking for their opinion on the remaining Tk48 crore. The letter mentioned that there was no way to verify whether the companies, whose senior executives had been arrested resulting in a suspension of operations, had delivered the products or not.

“Paying off e-commerce customers only on their receivables may cause problems in the future,” the central bank wrote in the letter.

Subsequently, the Ministry of Commerce sought the opinion of the Ministry of Justice in early November. However, the Justice Department has yet to respond.

Meanwhile, the Commerce Ministry sent a letter to the central bank earlier this month to return the money to customers of e-commerce companies who do not have lawsuits. The Bangladesh bank passed the message on to payment gateways last week.

Has the escrow backfired?

Some Department of Commerce officials said they were frustrated because they could not reimburse customers for the escrow service. They said that although the service has been made essential to protect customers, it has now become a cause of suffering for customers.

“It doesn’t make sense to let customers suffer just because of the misdeeds of a few dishonest e-commerce companies,” a Commerce Ministry official said on condition of anonymity.

“The protracted crisis not only disgusts customers, but also affects the potential of the country’s flourishing e-commerce industry. I wish ministries and other government agencies could understand the losses,” the official added.

Abdul Wahed Tamal, secretary general of the Bangladesh Electronic Commerce Association (e-CAB), told TBS that it is important to take action to resolve cases against e-commerce companies so that customers can be reimbursed quickly.

He said the escrow service is still operated manually, which needs to be automated.