CID finds evidence against 14 companies; suspects at least Tk50 crore has been laundered by some e-commerce platforms
Despite the recent introduction of operational guidelines for the e-commerce sector, the industry still seems to be rife with complaints.
Although it was Evaly that achieved the most notoriety in recent weeks, data by the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection (DNCRP) shows the services of other platforms have not been satisfactory either, and the nature of complaints suggest a violation of the new guidelines.
For instance, Sayema Khatun, who had recently ordered a frying pan from Chaldal.com, said she received a damaged product.
“When I asked for a replacement, they told me this product is out of stock and asked me to buy other items from the site with that amount,” she said.
But according to the new e-commerce policy, consumers have to be refunded the amount in the form it was taken and they cannot be forced to use some in-app purchase credit or to buy products other than what was initially ordered.
Similarly, Rokibul Islam Riad, a customer of Chaldal, said he cancelled an order 10 days ago but still has not received the refund.
“What does it mean to keep one's money for 10 days? When I gave the money, I gave it immediately,” he said.
According to the new e-commerce guidelines, if a product is undelivered after taking an advance, the customer must be refunded within 10 days.
Omer Sharif Ibney Hai, the head of Growth at Chaldal, told Dhaka Tribune: “We have had issues, but we are continuously addressing them, updating as per the introduced standard operating procedure [SOP] and I assure you we will solve any issues through validation.”
In regards to refunds through bank transactions, the official said the delay is usually on the end of the responsible bank or payment gateway.
He further said Chaldal delivers more than 110,000 items per day. "Even if 0.1% of them have issues, that will mean 10-20 items have issues. In some cases, the customers do not even inform us.
“To get an estimate, out of 6,500 dozen eggs, around 20-30 dozen turn out to be rotten or cracked. We spend around $10-15 per customer on just acquiring them and for a model that depends on customer satisfaction, the loss is ours if we are unable to meet them,” Hai added.
Popular food delivery platform foodpanda also has seen its fair share of complaints.
Nayeem Reza wrote in the Bangladesh Eats Facebook group: “So, ordered vegetables through Pandamart and they delivered old vegetables. I reported to customer care and they said it was not rotten so there was nothing they could do … Not ordering from Pandamart again!”
Borsha Khan, another customer, wrote in foodpanda Bangladesh: “They gave me three small-sized products instead of the ordered ones and on complaining, said sorry and offered me a voucher worth Tk250. But by the time I responded, which was 15 minutes later, I could not get a reply.”
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Asked about a complaint regarding in-store credit refunds or coupons, mostly on wrong orders delivered, foodpanda responded: “On orders where customers are eligible for full refund and contact our customer service, our representatives ask customers whether they would like to get the refund amount as a voucher within the foodpanda app or in their account or card, depending on the original method of the payment.
“For online paid cancelled orders, refunds are automatically initiated by default to the refund account. Customers can transfer any amount from their refund account within the foodpanda app to their bank account or card at any time they want. Refunds given as vouchers can be applied to the next order and the customer gets a discount. For orders paid with bKash, eligible customers receive the refund amount in their bKash account by default," the company added.
Regarding pending complaints with the DNCRP, foodpanda said: “There were only a small number of complaints filed against us in the last three years. We would like to assure that we take customer complaints very seriously and resolve their issues as fast as possible. We are looking into the matter to address the pending cases as per due procedure with the DNCRP.”
An official of the platform also stated that consumers who get wrong orders usually get refunds plus vouchers, and they are also provided choices for either getting the refund or using it for a purchase next time.
A staggering 13,317 complaints were filed against top e-commerce, ride-sharing and food delivery platforms, as well as Facebook-based businesses in Bangladesh in the last three fiscal years, official figures show.
Facebook, Evaly and Daraz topped the list with the number of complaints lodged, with 8,813, 4,932, and 1,019 complaints, respectively.
However, Daraz and Facebook respectively had settlement rates of 92.73% and 90.71% in contrast to Evaly’s 84.04%.
Evaly also topped the DNCRP list in terms of unresolved complaints at 787, and the platform received a total of 4,932 complaints from July of 2018 to June this year.
In response to the allegations against Evaly, the government has also decided to liquidate its assets if the company fails to meet its liabilities, as per a meeting chaired by Commerce Secretary Tapan Kanti Ghosh on Sunday.
However, the complaints keep piling.
Tamanna Tanzina, a customer of Evaly, told Dhaka Tribune that her order of an air conditioner made during the Cyclone Offer on March 7 this year is yet to be delivered.
She paid Tk23,250 through Nagad on the day she made the order.
“On April 24, it was shown on the app that my product had been picked up for delivery. But I have yet to receive the product or a refund. I spoke to the customer care service, who said it will take some time to resolve this problem.”
Mehedi Hasan, who ordered two motorbikes from Evaly, said he has not received either of the products although four months have already passed.
Rubel Mollah, another customer of Evaly, said although the company’s CEO is “saying big words, we do not believe any of it.
“20 of my products have not been delivered yet, although six months have passed,” he added.
Evaly was unable to respond to queries by Dhaka Tribune till the filing of this report.
Meanwhile, Uber had the highest settlement rate of 98.42%, addressing almost all customer complaints except for two of the 127 lodged against it.
“We stay committed to offering an enriching platform experience for both riders and drivers in Bangladesh. We have continually invested in technology, as well as in building a strong team to improve our services in the region,” said an Uber spokesperson.
“For every complaint raised, we follow a structured process where we first confirm the veracity of the complaint, gather relevant information from all parties, and then take appropriate action. This process, along with strong implementation, has worked well for us,” the spokesperson added.
Foodpanda, Rokomari, Priyo Shop, Falguni, E-orange, Nirapad, and Adian had even lower settlement rates than Evaly, respectively having 83.64%, 73.48%, 72.62%, 65.78%, 56.25%, and 49.27%.
Dhamaka and Alesha Mart had the lowest rates of 25.67% and 10%, respectively.
Dhaka Tribune also came across consumers who did not file complaints against the e-commerce platforms despite ordering products worth more than Tk20,000.
One such customer, who had ordered Tk23,767 worth of products from Dhamaka, said his order has been pending for the last three months.
Asked if he had registered a complaint with the DNCRP, he said: “I do not think this is worth the hassle. And I also knew the risks involved, but did not expect it from Dhamaka.”
Another consumer, Md Rabbi, who had ordered a bicycle from Falguni, told Dhaka Tribune that the platform did not deliver his bike even after two months and that the customer service cannot be reached over the phone.
Dhaka Tribune was unable to reach Falguni or Dhamaka for comments regarding these allegations.
With complaints galore, however, the authorities are looking into various companies in the sector.
A senior official of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) who is inquiring the allegations said they have found cognizable evidence against 14 companies at the primary stage of assessment.
Seeking anonymity, the official said: “There is evidence that they have not provided the products on time and taken a huge amount of money which is absent from their accounts. And some companies have laundered money to shadow foreign merchant accounts.
“We are suspecting more than Tk50-100 crore has been laundered by some of these e-commerce sites. But we will get the full picture after finishing the investigation. But it is likely that this money was derived from the huge number of advanced payments from the customers by offering big discounts,” he added.