Commerce Ministry makes recommendation as Bangladesh Bank advises audit against the outlets
The Ministry of Commerce has recommended taking legal action against the infamous e-commerce platform Evaly for violating laws.
Following an inter-ministerial committee meeting on Tuesday, Hafizur Rahman, additional secretary to the Commerce Ministry told reporters that Evaly has been violating laws, for which the matter will be handed over to law enforcement agencies for taking legal action.
The additional secretary also said that several other platforms that violated the Digital Security Act and the Consumer Rights Act were also discussed during the meeting, and they will inform the Home Ministry regarding the matter.
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Meanwhile, the Bangladesh Bank bank had advised carrying out third-party audits against several other platforms of the e-commerce sector who allegedly embezzled money and took advance payments without delivering products.
The central bank, on Sunday, sent a letter to the Commerce Ministry in this regard.
The letter recommended auditing the e-commerce platforms in question, namely Alesha Mart, Dhamaka, eorange, Sirajganj Shop, Aladiner Prodip, Qcoom, BoomBoom, Adyan Mart and Need.com.bd.
The third-party audit firms will investigate the financial statements of the e-commerce companies, the central bank’s spokesperson Serajul Islam told Dhaka Tribune.
According to the central bank’s recommendation, the audit firms should be investigating the financial statements of the companies as well as any anomalies in product delivery.
The recommendation of a third-party audit came in response to a letter sent by the ministry on August 24 to the central bank over the latest audit reports of the online marketplaces, according to the central bank official.
The ministry sought information on the total liabilities of the companies to the buyers and merchants, the amount of current and fixed capital of the companies, as well as the location of fund transfers and transactions.
However, according to the Commerce Ministry, the liability of the platforms might even be higher than what has been reported.
The reported liabilities by the platforms are not completely trustable and the central bank has been having issues in finding the exact figure and a third-party auditor may be able to help, the commerce secretary said.
Following the ministry’s letter, the central bank found that Evaly owes customers and merchants Tk403 crore with a current capital of Tk65 crore.
Earlier, in two different submissions to the Commerce Ministry, Evaly informed that they owe Tk311 crore to customers and Tk206 crore to the merchants, even submitting its financial statements for the third time. The platform’s liability was even found to be higher than what the central bank had initially found.
The secretary also said: “A company has its secrets and it cannot be forced to disclose its financial statements until it has been legally instructed by the court, and we are currently looking into the matter if the law permits us to do so.”
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The e-commerce sector had been flooded with complaints relating to product delivery, taking money from customers in advance, fraudulent transactions and embezzlement.
Apart from Evaly, Eorange, both Dhamaka and Sirajganjshop.com have been facing consumer protests based on the allegations, whereas Alesha Mart has been accused of breaching the SOP by offering 50% discounts on products through its own card.
The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the police is also investigating the money laundering allegations against the said e-commerce companies.
Evaly could not be reached until the filing of this report, while Alesha Mart clarified their position through email after Dhaka Tribune contacted them.
Regarding Bangladesh Bank's advice to audit the 9 e-commerce platforms, they said: "It is really unfortunate that due to some unacceptable business practices, those have been already performed in the (e-commerce) industry by some registered companies, has created wrong perception for the customers on the operation and consumer security. As a result, Bangladesh Bank has asked for audit through the financial channels to ensure customers' financial security and consumer rights, which Alesha Mart Ltd welcomes whole heartedly."
Asked whether they conducted any independent audit, they replied that they have their own audit department which is working for all the required standard aspects, especially for the proper process of developments to maintain audit and accounts, as well as other financial aspects of the organization.
Regarding their compliance with the new e-commerce guidelines, they said that they have always been respectful towards the law and have always ensured its operations and other official acknowledgments accordingly.