Yeasin Ali ordered an air conditioner from the much talked about online shopping platform Evaly on 27 June this year as the summer was hot and humid.
He placed the online order hoping to install the AC unit at his home and get some relief from the heat without any hassle. Summer has gone by and Bangladesh is now feeling the touch of winter, but the e-commerce company has yet to deliver Yeasin's air conditioner.
Without a solution in sight, the shopper went on social media and vented his frustrations by posting a screenshot of his order. Yeasin's experience with Evaly is far from an isolated incident, as allegations of irregularities against the company have been mounting day by day.
The Department of National Consumers Right Protection (DNCRP) – a wing of the commerce ministry working to ensure consumers rights – had received only 93 complaints against Evaly in 2019, but complaints increased by nearly tenfold as of September this year, standing at 928.
In September this year, 239 complaints were filed against the company; the number was 111 in August, the data shows.
Responding to a query, DNCRP authorities said they will settle every dispute regarding Evaly, but due to the situation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, they cannot organise a hearing despite having intentions to do so.
'We are offering full refunds'
Md Sazzat, another customer of Evaly residing in the Sarishabari area of Jamalpur district, spent Tk69,590 to order three products from the online shopping platform on 26 August, enticed by lucrative offers.
One of the products, a Samsung D3 Refrigerator offered a 130% cashback, while the other two – an AIWA Smart Android 4K TV and another 32-inch TV – offered 50% cashback each.
Evaly was supposed to deliver the products within the next 7-45 days, but as of 1 December, Sazzat was still waiting for the delivery. Frustrated, he had contacted the Evaly customer care multiple times, but to no avail.
He also lodged a complaint with the DNCRP on 26 November, seeking its help with the issue.
On 26 October, the Evaly authorities promised that its customers who have yet to receive their products would get their deliveries or refunds within the next 10 working days.
But the company failed to live up to that promise too, causing hundreds of shoppers lured in by fancy discounts and cashback offers to end up with nothing but frustration and inconvenience.
When approached for comments, Evaly told The Business Standard that it has been trying to overcome the delivery backlog, which was created due to a tussle with the administration.
"Alongside new orders, we are also delivering pending orders on a regular basis. Besides, we are offering full refunds to customers who did not receive delivery of their products due to issues at our end," said Evaly Managing Director Mohammad Rasel.
He added that Evaly is working to ease the gridlock in its delivery system and has recruited fresh manpower in the logistics department for this purpose.
Rasel further said, "The platform has delivered around 8 lakh orders in October, which include 5,714 bikes, 36,895 smartphones, 32,977 electronic products, 1.29 lakh grocery, 28,474 fashion products and 6 lakh other goods."
However, despite repeated queries, Evaly declined to comment on the current number of pending deliveries for orders placed on the platform.
The company also refused to disclose the number of orders it is getting now, and it used to get in September, before its tussle with the Financial Intelligence Unit of Bangladesh Bank over its business activities.
'It is frustrating'
Despite being in hot water, Evaly recently made a promotional post for its "E-Food" on the company's Facebook page. The post's comment section is rife with people venting their frustrations with the e-commerce platform.
Rubel, one of the disheartened customers, reached out to The Business Standard stating although he paid for his order of light bulbs and sockets on 9 August, the delivery is still pending.
"I have reached out to the Evaly Customer Care on multiple occasions and they have given me repeated assurance, but I have not received delivery of my order yet. It is very frustrating," he added.
Another customer, Abrar Abdullah ordered an air conditioner from Evaly on 17 May, but he is also waiting for its delivery.
He added, "Evaly initially said they would let me know when I would receive the product. But after repeated emails, they kept giving me the same assurance over and over. Sometimes they do not reply to me at all."
Evaly promised Sohel Bhuiyan the delivery of a Suzuki Hayate motorcycle within 45 days of payment, which he made in April this year. But after waiting for over six months, Sohel received a notification of refund instead of a new bike on October 11.
Last September, E-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-cab) formed a committee to observe Evaly's business. The platform is updating its business situation to the committee every month.
A director at the e-Cab, on condition of anonymity, said, "The e-commerce platform has started to turn around. But due to a shortage of stock, it has been facing difficulties in delivering some of the products such as motorcycles.
A source at Evaly said the company is currently putting more importance on refunds against pending orders instead of completing pending deliveries, due to a shortage of products.
However, many customers alleged that the e-commerce platform is not only failing to deliver expensive products such as motorbikes, TVs and fridges, but it also cannot deliver smaller commodities such as a bottle of Parachute Coconut Oil.
Such is the case for HM Sharif of Madaripur. He commented on an Evaly post, "I placed an order for a bottle of Parachute Coconut Oil in summer, but winter has already arrived and I did not get the delivery. Is there a shortage of coconut oil in the market?"