A guideline has been drafted considering the recent uproar regarding misconduct and consumer rights violations by several e-commerce sites
E-commerce companies will have to deliver products to customers within five days after taking advance payment and a maximum of 10 days if the buyer and seller are in different cities.
The Ministry of Commerce has finalized the "Digital Commerce Operational Guide-2021" (DCOG) with such terms according to Hafizur Rahman, additional secretary to the commerce ministry and also the chief of the government's central e-commerce cell.
An inter-ministerial meeting was held on Wednesday led by Commerce Secretary Tapan Kanti Ghosh that finalized DCOG’21 under the National Digital Commerce Policy 2020 and the central e-commerce cell.
According to the Commerce Ministry, the implementation of these guidelines would ensure discipline in the fast-growing sector and create healthy competition. If a company fails to abide by the terms, consumers will be able to file complaints with the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection and other relevant regulatory agencies and the company will be shut down.
The guideline has been drafted considering the recent uproar regarding misconduct and consumer rights violations by several e-commerce sites which called for a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to be formulated.
According to an official of the e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-CAB), the guidelines would ensure healthy competition in the e-commerce sector and protect the rights of consumers.
E-CAB had been advocating for an escrow-based system for the e-commerce sector and asked approval of the central bank to address the issues of the digital commerce sector.
Earlier last week, the Commerce Ministry and Bangladesh Bank had decided to adopt an escrow-based approach with the central bank acting as the third-party, holding money paid in advance by consumers till they receive the products from e-commerce platforms.
The move came following an inspection report by the central bank that showed e-commerce site Evaly's liabilities to customers and merchants had risen to Tk403.80 crore, while its current assets were worth only Tk65.17 crore.
Evaly, that has been at the centre of the issue, had also welcomed the government’s SOP, stating it has been asking for such SOP from the very inception that would not apply just to the brand but to every market player.
Speaking to Dhaka Tribune, an official of Evaly stated: “We have already removed cyclone and other offers and even started a new campaign T10 in the light of the new SOP and keeping in view the continuing demand of the customers.”
Under the new campaign, Evaly will serve customers and consumers following the SOP formulated by the ministry. Customers will be able to pay only 10% of the printed price of any product or service in advance and the rest will be paid in cash on delivery. Products have been assured to be delivered in 10 days.
According to the draft guidelines, e-commerce platforms will have to hand over orders for delivery within 48 hours of receiving the advance payment and notify the customers via SMS, email, or phone calls. The items have to be supplied within the next 72 hours.
In regards to purchasing with advance payment, the guidelines state, e-commerce companies can only showcase items that are in their or a registered third-party’s stock and ready to be shipped, with a maximum of 10% of the price paid in advance.
However, a 100% advance payment can be charged only through Bangladesh Bank’s escrow system.
It has been reported that according to the draft, in case of delays with delivery based on unexpected problems, the companies have to notify the customer.
Customers can not be forced to buy any other product in exchange for the delayed one or reimbursed in the form of a platform-based wallet.