The commerce ministry has written to the Bangladesh Bank to look into financial management at Evaly, an e-commerce platform that was in the spotlight last year for numerous alleged irregularities.
It has also sent a letter to the home ministry's Public Security Division to ask the Criminal Investigation Department's (CID) Organised Crime Division to probe various allegations against the company and submit a report.
On 18 February, the two letters signed by the deputy secretary to the Admin wing of the commerce ministry, Jinnat Rehana, were sent to Bangladesh Bank Governor Fazle Kabir, and Public Security Division's Senior Secretary Mostafa Kamal Uddin.
The commerce ministry also wrote to Md Hafizur Rahman, director general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) cell under the ministry, asking him to direct Evaly to follow cash-on-delivery in business. Hafizur is also the head of the national digital commerce cell.
The ministry took the steps against Evaly in the wake of recommendations made by the Police Headquarters in a report last month. The report was prepared based on the probe into allegations of financial mismanagement and non-delivery of goods on time after collecting advance payments from customers.
Commerce Secretary Dr Md Jafar Uddin told The Business Standard that the Police HQ report had recommended further investigations into Evaly.
He said letters had been sent to the home ministry, the Bangladesh Bank, and others concerned as part of implementing that recommendation.
"We are going to finalise and issue a digital commerce policy very soon. Our key goal is to develop the e-commerce sector by restoring customer confidence," he added.
In the letter to Hafizur, the ministry asked him to direct Evaly to operate its business according to the consumers' rights protection act, the national digital commerce policy of the ministry, and the rules and regulations of the e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh.
He told The Business Standard that he had not yet received the letter as he had been outside Dhaka for official purposes.
"I will receive the letter on Tuesday. I will take necessary steps as per the instructions of the ministry."
Moreover, a letter was sent to Babul Kumar Saha, director general of the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection, to monitor whether consumers' rights were being protected in Evaly's operations.
The letter asked the directorate to send a report to the ministry every month after monitoring how many orders Evaly had received and how many of those had been delivered.
When contacted, Babul Saha declined to comment on the matter while Md Serajul Islam, spokesperson for the central bank, could not be reached despite repeated attempts.
CID's Special Superintendent of Police (Organised Crime Division) Mostafa Kamal told The Business Standard he had not yet received the commerce ministry letter.
He said they had already submitted a probe report to the home ministry but had not yet received fresh instructions to carry out another investigation.
The Police HQ probe report mentioned eight types of irregularities against Evaly. The existing Consumers' Right Protection Act 2009 and various sections of the Penal Code 1860 provide for three years of imprisonment for such offences.
According to the Digital Security Act 2018, the company owner is liable for these crimes.
The investigators found allegations of not delivering products on time, not keeping proper contact with customers, not returning the advance payment fully in case of failure to deliver products, and offering e-balance instead of cashback.
They also found evidence that money received through cashback offers was added to e-wallets instead of being returned in cash or to bank accounts, and that customers were not allowed to use 100% of the e-balance to purchase products.
The report said low-cost and substandard products as well as products different from what were originally ordered are often delivered to customers.
Evaly formally commenced its journey on 16 December 2018 after taking registration from the Office of the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies and Firms on 14 May that year. It started with a paid-up capital of Tk50,000, and its current paid-up capital is Tk1 crore.
Evaly now has more than 37 lakh registered customers and its monthly transaction is around Tk300 crore. At present, about 25,000 vendors are associated with it.
Evaly initially introduced Voucher, a system that offered cashback up to 200-300% for various products. At present, cashback up to 100-150% is offered.
The company receives a commission by selling around 4,000 types of products, including mobile phones, motorcycles, refrigerators, televisions, cars and flats, on its platform.
Evaly's payment system is not like that of other e-commerce firms in the country. It does not offer cash-on-delivery facilities. The full price of a product has to be paid in advance.
The company's founder Mohammad Rassel graduated in statistics from Jahangirnagar University. He then obtained an MBA degree from the Institute of Business Administration under the University of Dhaka.
He launched Evaly after working at Dhaka Bank for about two years.