The panel will be composed of representatives and experts from the private, academic, IT and e-commerce sectors
The Department of Commerce will form a new panel that will advise the government on formulating rules to regulate the scandal-plagued local e-commerce sector, while maintaining the interest of consumers and traders.
The panel will be made up of representatives and experts from the private, academic, IT and e-commerce sectors, as well as government officials, economists, researchers and business analysts.
Although there is an existing inter-ministerial committee, the recommendation of a wider range of stakeholders is needed, Hafizur Rahman, head of the central digital trade cell at the Ministry of Commerce, told Dhaka Tribune.
The existing committee currently includes representatives from the National Board of Revenue (NBR), Bangladesh Bank, Ministry of Home Affairs and other regulatory authorities.
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The move follows recent scandals rocked by dubious e-commerce platforms such as Evaly, Eorange, Dhamaka Shopping, Sirajganj Shop and others, which offered amazing product discounts to customers, but failed to delivered products to customers despite receiving full payment in advance, in most cases.
Speaking to Dhaka Tribune, officials from the Electronic Commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-CAB) explained that several regulatory bodies and agencies need to be involved to ensure consumer protection through a framework yet to be defined. for the e-commerce industry.
Relevant agencies include the Bangladesh Competition Commission, ICT Division, a2i, National Consumer Rights Protection Authority, Bangladesh Bank, as well as the Ministry of Commerce.
According to e-CAB, a risk factor management committee is also imperative, which will monitor and control the risky behavior of e-commerce platforms, consisting of the Ministry of Public Administration, Department of ICT, Ministry of Commerce, of the Competition Commission, Consumer Rights, Bangladesh Bank and others.
Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal had also said last week that several regulators need to be involved in the governance of the sector as some companies are registered as technology-based, which falls under the ICT, A2i wing of the government.
One-time BIN registration will be mandatory
Hafizur Rahman also told the Dhaka Tribune that all e-commerce platforms including Facebook-based businesses will be placed under a Unique Business Identification Number (UBIN) program to regulate and monitor the industry.
“Registration will be given after careful inspection of promotional campaigns, customer reviews of products and deliveries, and comments posted by consumers online. Any online platform without UBIN would not be allowed to operate. A2i and the ICT Division have developed software that will enable online registration, and we expect to start by the end of this year,” he added.
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According to the Ministry of Commerce official, the National Consumer Rights Protection Directorate will suspend the operations of any platform if there are multiple allegations of customer harassment against it.
In recent months, the e-commerce industry has been plagued by complaints about product deliveries, prepayments, fraudulent transactions and embezzlement.
Evaly, Eorange, Dhamaka, Sirajganj Shop and more recently PriyoShop have been accused of malpractice.
Alesha Mart has also been accused of breaching the recently introduced standard operating procedure (SOP) by offering 50% discounts on products through its own card.
The DNCRP has also published data that identifies malpractice by these organizations.
Following the massive scams in the industry, the Ministry of Commerce has already approved the verification process to protect consumers in the digital marketplace.
However, according to industry insiders, a new regulator will further hamper the ease of doing business.
Waseem Alim, Founder and Managing Director of Chaldal, in a discussion, debated the need for a new regulator and said the current framework was enough, if just monitored properly.
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Additional regulations will discourage new businesses, he added.
AKM Fahim Mashroor, managing director of Bdjobs Limited, also agreed with Alim and suggested strengthening regulatory bodies such as the central bank.
Earlier, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi told a press conference that the government would start working to form the Electronic Commerce Authority, the Central Complaints Handling Unit and the Digital Commerce Act to streamline the country’s emerging e-commerce business last Wednesday.