Beleaguered e-commerce firm Alesha Mart has urged the commerce ministry to allow it to take in cash from the escrow service to its account, plus arrange bank loans.
Alesha Mart Chairman Md Monzur Alam Sikder sent two separate letters to Senior Commerce Secretary Tapan Kanti Ghosh on Wednesday in this regard.
In the letters, Monzur Alam claimed "a huge amount of money" of Alesha customers is stuck with the escrow service provider SSL Commerz, and the e-commerce firm needs to transfer it to its own account to "satisfy the customers".
According to the escrow payment arrangements, advance payments will go to the third party. It will disburse the payment to the seller only after a successful delivery. For unsuccessful purchases, customers are supposed to be refunded by the third party – SSL Commerz in case of Alesha.
The arrangement does not allow refunds from the escrow fund by the seller.
On top of the illogical demand, Monzur Alam requested the commerce ministry to arrange bank loans for Alesha, saying, "There are no alternatives to bank borrowing for the sake of uninterrupted business."
Referring to banks' "unwillingness" in lending e-firms, he further requested for loans, considering the case of Alesha employees.
Alesha Mart sought Tk300 crore in working capital from the commerce ministry in December last year, as it plans to refund customers and resume operations in full. But the ministry said the government would not give any financial support to the e-commerce company.
"How would Alesha repay the banks after refunding the customers with bank loans," questioned Zahid Hussain, a former lead economist of the World Bank's Dhaka office.
He said if the government now arranges bank loans for Alesha, the banks in future could pressurise the government for payback.
The economist said the disgruntled customer must be refunded from Alesha properties. Neither the government nor the bank can be responsible for paying the liabilities of any company.
Tk214cr refund from escrow likely from March
E-commerce refunds from Tk214 crore that is now stuck with escrow service providers may begin in full swing from March, said commerce ministry digital cell official and deputy secretary Md Sayeed Ali.
The ministry officials said they have received a list of e-commerce companies from the police headquarters. According to the list, 24 companies have been sued by their disgruntled customers so far.
Customers of both firms with and without police cases will be refunded from the escrow services, said officials. But the ministry has no refund plan for Evaly customers since the court has formed a separate board for it.