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Regulatory body to govern e-commerce

24 Sep 2021 00:00:00 | Update: 24 Sep 2021 00:57:25
Regulatory body to govern e-commerce

In a welcome initiative the government has decided to establish a regulatory body as well as formulate and enact a digital commerce act to govern the emerging e-commerce business in the country. As e-commerce is at an early stage in Bangladesh, the sector requires special protection and it is in the interest of developing an alternative and smooth business model that experts have been urging the government to formulate policies to protect both the consumers and local e-commerce platforms.

The major issue in the sector is the proliferation of Ponzi schemes or pyramid schemes. These are investment scams where naive individuals get tricked by false investors who promise them exceptionally tantalising returns in exchange for their money. However, unlike a normal investment, this kind of schemes can offer constant profits just so long as the number of investors keeps increasing. Once that number dwindles, so does the money. Many people have been rendered paupers through these devious schemes. When the proposed regulatory body starts functioning it would be easier to detect and take stern actions against these nefarious fraudsters.

With the inception of modern technology in this country, e-commerce has boomed in the country within a short span of time. It has improved economic efficiency and created many new jobs especially for the youth. E-commerce has also helped narrow the rural–urban divide. However, the authorities must ensure that unprofessional and fraudulent online traders are not allowed to pose a threat to its growth. According to the annual research report of Cyber Crime Awareness Foundation more than 11.48 per cent customers of the e-commerce sector were deceived in 2020 from various e-commerce and Facebook commerce (f-commerce) websites. The number was previously 7.44 per cent in 2019.

There are big e-platforms–like the recently discredited Evaly– that promise to procure high-value goods, including electrical and electronic appliances from abroad on partial or full advance payments. Most of the consumers believed to have been cheated are those who made advance payments, and although the e-platforms are still keeping them waiting for long with promises of delivery, chances appear to be next to nothing as prospects are waning. There are intriguing reports in the media saying that some of these e-platforms who procure goods from abroad or promise to do so are burdened with far more bank loans than their actual assets in monetary terms. As regards the other e-platforms that deliver goods ranging across a wide variety of consumer items under ‘cash on delivery’, there is hardly any complaint. So, the fraud is orchestrated by supposedly big e-platforms who allure the consumers to supply desired goods at cheaper prices from abroad. 

The customers are blaming the online vendors for providing low-quality articles, including clothes, electronic gadgets, jewellery, mobile phones and other daily use items, instead of delivering the actual ordered/selected items. Media reports say several online shopping websites are outwitting the consumers, who opted this way of shopping to save their time and money, after being attracted by the quality display of the articles on their websites. Related to trusted sites, is phishing. Some online websites may look like a reputable or even well-known brand or corporation, but the URL may tell a different story. Many phishing websites are set up to look like a shopping website consumers trust, and instead just store all the data inputted for the perpetrators later uses. With phishing comes identity theft. Many people input their information on websites they trust, but this information is not always secure. It is especially dangerous when using credit cards with an unknown site. These websites will then have all the available information they need to open up a new card, or take out a loan using your identity.

Consumer is the king, as the saying goes. Consumer protection is a burning issue in e-commerce not only in Bangladesh but throughout the globe. And in order to protect the rights of the consumers, the authorities concerned should take quick action to launch crackdown against such sellers, and put in place a speedy complaint process for providing relief to the affected customers. There should be provisions whereby the deceived customers are compensated.