Mandatory UBIN registration for online businesses from this month

The commerce ministry is ready to roll out mandatory registration of unique business identification number (UBIN) for all e-commerce and Facebook commerce (f-commerce) businesses from this month, subject to cabinet approval.

According to Md Hafizur Rahman, director-general of the Commerce Ministry's WTO Cell, the ministry has finalized the process of issuing UBINs against trade licences for e-commerce trading, after obtaining cabinet nod.

As per ministry officials, failing to register will lead to the sites and Facebook pages of those businesses being shut down by the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC.)

But businesses will be given two to three months of time to register with the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies and Firms (RJSC), which does not require a fee.

However, stakeholders think the registration process also needs to protect consumers, as well as secure and sustain the businesses that helped gain momentum in the growing ICT sector.

The registration for businesses needs to be simple and not complex as f-commerce is mostly informal. NID-based collateral should do for registration. Multiple forms of collateral for the process would severely harm the businesses and the growth of the sector, Mohammad Sahab Uddin, vice president of the e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-CAB), told Dhaka Tribune.

For the past few years, Bangladesh's e-commerce business expanded rapidly, with women entrepreneurs increasingly starting their online-based small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Bangladesh presently has 2,500 e-commerce sites and a huge number of unofficial online shops run by women selling items worth over $2 billion, making it the 46th largest country in terms of e-commerce sales globally, according to news reports.

Furthermore, according to the Industrial Development Leasing Company of Bangladesh Limited's monthly business assessment (2019), Facebook is used by more than 300,000 Bangladeshi retailers.

Women own more than 50% of these businesses.

Bangladesh's internet business scene has been revolutionized by Facebook and other social media. In the country, the social networking platform has 30 million members and 50,000 company sites.

Industry insiders also told Dhaka Tribune that although regulation is necessary, over-regulation will impact the growth of the sector that has not been faced by neighboring countries such as India, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan; with those markets also competing for global FDIs in the sector.

Data privacy for businesses and consumers also needs to be secured, they added.

When the data of businesses enter the system, it should stay encrypted, to ensure privacy, added the e-CAB VP.

BASIS president Syed Almas Kabir also explained that with consumer data being in the servers of businesses it is crucial to ensure consumer data is secured and privacy is ensured.

As per the ministry, the registration applications must include information including the identity of the owner, a copy of their national identity card, trade license, mobile number, and permanent and current address.

A certificate from the ward councilor, the mayor of the municipality, or the chairman of the union council must also be submitted if the business is based within city corporations.

Additionally, the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection and the IIT wing of the Ministry of Commerce will work with the BTRC to monitor, identify, and shut down businesses of e-commerce and f-commerce that are not registered. 

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