Customers of beleaguered online shopping platform Qcoom now see the light at the end of the tunnel as government agencies have reached a positive outcome on refunds, said a top ministry official.
The law ministry, police and the central bank told a commerce ministry meeting on Tuesday that they do not have any objection to refunding Qcoom customers who neither got the product nor money back even after advance payment.
Representatives of Qcoom and Foster were also present at the meeting.
"We have instructed Qcoom and its payment gateway Foster to submit a list of the disgruntled customers by 10 January 2022. After getting the list, we will map out our next course of action," AHM Shafiquzzaman, chief of Digital Commerce Cell of the commerce ministry, told The Business Standard after emerging from the meeting.
Qcoom has Tk397 crore stuck with its payment gateway Foster. The amount includes at least Tk166 crore that belongs to the customers as they did not get their products delivered by the online shopping store.
Qcoom faces cases filed by its disgruntled clients while police's Criminal Investigation Department (CID) is investigating Foster's transactions on money laundering charges after freezing two of its accounts.
Police in October arrested Qcoom CEO and Managing Director Md Ripan Mia for fraud and now the company's operations are suspended.
"During the meeting at the commerce ministry today [Tuesday], government agencies agreed that the clients should not bear the brunt for the wrongdoings of the online company or its payment gateway," said a commerce ministry official in condition of anonymity.
The official said they would seek the opinion of the law ministry formally after getting the customer list. "If there are legal barriers, the customers will get their money back. And if any legal issue arises, we will seek the directives of the High Court," noted the official.
Commerce ministry Deputy Secretary Muhammad Saeed Ali said estimations so far suggest that Qcoom did not deliver products against Tk166 crore deposits to Foster.
"However, the amount may rise further. Therefore, we have asked the company and its payment partner to verify all the invoices to prepare the customer list and submit it to us by 10 January next year," he added.
Two frozen accounts of Foster now have around Tk194 crore. According to the Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU), customers deposited a total of Tk790 crore to Qcoom's six bank accounts.
The accounts are now frozen with a balance of Tk2.97 crore as the rogue online firm had withdrawn the remaining money.
If Qcoom customers finally get refunds from the stuck amount with Foster, that will possibly help untangle similar cases with some other e-commerce firms involving a total of Tk48 crore.
The firms used to receive advance payments from clients directly to their bank accounts before escrow service was introduced on 30 June this year. The central bank so far has locked bank accounts of 17 rogue e-commerce players in the face of fraud and embezzlement charges.
Since the locked accounts now have paltry balances, customers who paid in advance for online shopping before the introduction of escrow still face refund uncertainty.
According to the central bank's data, 35 e-commerce companies, with allegations of not delivering products even after taking payments in advance, managed to rake in some Tk21,030.51 crore from customers. At present, the total balance in the accounts of these companies is only Tk388 crore, 1.84% of the total deposits.
The top 10 companies on the list – Evaly, Dhamaka Shopping, Eorange, Daraz, Alesha Mart, Sirajganj Shop, Foster, Qcoom, Ring ID, and Anonder Bazar — received a total deposit of Tk20,178 crore, which is 96% of the total deposits in 35 companies. The current balance in these 10 companies' accounts is Tk321 crore, which is only 1.59% of the money they received from customers.
Of the top 10 companies, only Daraz and Alesha Mart are still in operation. Top executives of Evaly, Dhamaka, Eorange, Sirajganj Shop, Qcoom, Anonder Bazar and Ring ID either have been arrested or are absconding.