Hundreds of Alesha Mart customers are all set to receive Tk42 crore in refunds in phases from Thursday, which they paid in advance against their ordered products on the much-talked-about e-commerce site after 30 June last year.
On the initial day, 10 of the customers would get the money that remained stuck on payment gateway SSLCommerz, AHM Safiquzzaman, head of the e-commerce cell at the Ministry of Commerce, told The Business Standard.
According to the ministry, a total of 485 customers made the payments in 1,143 transactions through the payment gateway. The money got stuck on two segments – Tk31 crore in the first and Tk10 crore in the other. Besides, Alesha Mart owes Tk270 crore to thousands of customers.
"Alesha Mart provided the customers advance cheques. Here is the complexity. Although the company sold products at discounted prices, it provided the cheques worth the maximum prices of the ordered products. We are returning their paid amounts. Yet, they have the cheques at hand, which can create complexities in future," Safiquzzaman, also an additional secretary, added.
To fix the issue, the ministry asked the customers to back their cheques. "We will issue no objection certificates [NOC] on the condition of getting back the cheques and the SSLCommerz will refund them against the certificates," he added.
Meanwhile, the commerce ministry on 6 February took an initiative to help the ailing company get a bank loan so that it can refund all the customers.
"We already sent a letter to the Bangladesh Bank, requesting a loan arrangement for the e-commerce firm," said the additional commerce secretary.
Alesha Mart is expected to apply for the loan soon.
Complexity over refunding Qcoom customers
The commerce ministry also started refunding Tk397 crore to the customers of another Ponzi scheme-based online Qcoom on 24 January this year. The firm took its payments through payment gateway Foster.
On the initial day, some Tk59 crore was returned and later Tk2 crore on 2 February. However, the refunding activities are continuing at a slow pace.
When asked about the matter, Safiquzzaman told TBS that some customers made their payments from different wallets including those belonging to mobile financial agents.
"For example, a customer paid Tk5 lakh, of which he sent a portion from his wallet and another portion from a bKash agent. The refund money would be back to the wallets from which it comes, according to the Escrow service rules. So, returning the money without verification might go to the wrong people," he explained.
"So, we are contacting the customers and clarifying the issues. If they permit for having the refunds to the designated wallets, we are doing so."
"If anyone opposes, we ask her or him to contact Foster directly with their agents," the e-commerce cell head explained.
Safiquzzaman, however, assured that all the 6,721 customers of Qcoom, whose transactions could be traced, would get their products or refunds, as the warehouse of the company accommodated products worth Tk100 crore. "Besides, Tk397 crore has been on the payment gateway."
For settlements with other customers beyond the ministry's tracing, Qcoom CEO Ripan Mia's bail was a must, as he only knew the accounts.
Little chances for Eorrange, Dhamaka customers
Safiquzzaman said there were allegations of money laundering against Eorrange and Dhamaka, which was why the ministry was not concerned about them.
Besides, the companies had no money on their bank accounts and had very little amounts on payment gateways.
"So, it is tough to talk about the fate of their customers."