• Sunday, Nov 28, 2021
  • Last Update : 08:33 pm

Legal notice served against consumer money stuck with payment gateways

  • Published at 08:55 pm October 18th, 2021
web-Stacks of Bangladeshi taka
Mehedi Hasan/ Dhaka Tribune

The notice sought explanation within the next seven days on why consumers’ money is not being refunded and stuck with payment gateways, on Sunday

A consumer rights group has served a legal notice to relevant stakeholders of the e-commerce sector, demanding a refund of consumers’ money that are stuck with payment gateways.

The notice sought explanation within the next seven days on why consumers’ money is not being refunded and stuck with payment gateways, on Sunday. 

The respondents on the legal notice are the governor of the Bangladesh Bank, general manager of the Payment System Department of the bank, the commerce secretary and director-general of the WTO cell of the commerce ministry, chief executive officers of mobile financial service provider bKash and Nagad, payment gateway SSL Wireless, Foster Pay and Surjo Pay.

Supreme Court Lawyer Barrister Sabrina Zarin served the letter to the respondents on behalf of Conscious Consumer Society (CCS), seeking explanations on why the escrow system introduced by the central bank has not been automated in regards to the refund process.

The central bank introduced the escrow service in July to regulate fraudulent e-commerce platforms like Evaly and Dhamaka, in response to the allegations brought against them of taking advance money and not delivering products nor giving refunds.

In an escrow payment service, money paid by customers for ordered goods from e-commerce companies gets deposited in third-party payment gateways. 

The companies receive the money after submitting supporting documents proving the goods have been delivered.

However, many customers claim that they neither got their products nor the money they paid for the undelivered goods.  

According to CSS top officials, the gateways claim they need permission from the government or the e-commerce company to release the funds. But the official raised questions on the approval process required for availing one’s own money. 

E-commerce platforms also suffering

Several e-commerce shops have also been unable to access the advances paid by buyers even after delivering products as the money is stuck with the payment gateways, e-CAB Vice-President Shahab Uddin said.

“Many e-commerce platforms have made verbal complaints to the association and one has submitted a written complaint,” he added. 

“Even a few months after delivery, they (the online shop) have not received the money. We have informed this to the Bangladesh Bank,” he told Dhaka Tribune.

According to e-CAB, the main problem is the escrow system not being automated. The manual operations have been delaying the distribution of the funds that are stuck.

“We want the system to be automated quickly so that the companies can get the money in the fastest possible time after the customers receive the product,” he said, adding that e-commerce platforms also have to pay suppliers.

Alesha Mart also claimed that their money is stuck within the payment gateway services. Talking to Dhaka Tribune, an official of the e-commerce platform said: “The payment gateways are not releasing the money even after we are providing them with delivery confirmation.” 

The official said that due to this, they are not being able to provide refunds to many consumers. 

However, according to payment gateways, they are strictly abiding by the guidelines of the central bank, following the misconduct in the local e-commerce sector. They also said that the problem is the manual system.

“We cannot work outside of the instructions provided by our regulators, which we have been strictly abiding by,” a bKash official told Dhaka Tribune. 

An official of payment gateway SSLCOMMERZ said: “We have to confirm the deliveries by phone calls and text, which often go unanswered by the customers,” the official added, wishing to remain anonymous. 

“As a result, we cannot hand over the money. Earlier, we used to send the money to the companies even before delivery, but that has led to complaints. So, we have to be sure from now on,” the official further said.

The way to make it simpler would be “Sending a one-time password [OTP] to payment gateways once the product is delivered, or some kind of information-sharing system with the courier services could speed up this process.”

According to insiders, around Tk210 crore is stuck with payment gateways.

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