The e-commerce sector of Bangladesh was marred with controversy throughout 2021.
This year, some of the major e-commerce platforms came under the government's radar for their questionable business policies.
Allegations of laundering customers' money and violating fair trade policy came up against those companies including Evaly, Qcoom, Dhamaka, Eorange and Alesha Mart; some of the most popular names in e-commerce.
Evaly came into the limelight amid rising allegations from customers regarding delayed or no delivery of goods even after making payments way back in late 2020.
Over the huge number of allegations against the company, the commerce ministry directed various government agencies, including the home ministry and the Anti-Corruption Commission, to take action against Evaly.
On 16 September this year, the Rapid Action Battalion arrested Evaly's founder and CEO Mohammad Rassel and his wife, the chairman of the company, following cases filed by customers.
In its report to the commerce ministry, Evaly said its total liabilities were Tk543 crore, including Tk311 crore owed to customers.
On 10 September, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of police sued Dhamaka Shopping Managing Director SMD Jasim Uddin Chisti, his wife and two sons, and a director of the company for laundering around Tk116.68 crore to three other companies owned by them.
Like Evaly, customers of Dhamaka Shopping filed multiple cases against the company for failing to deliver products and refunds.
Earlier in August, Eorange owner Sonia Mahzabin and her husband were jailed after they surrendered to the court following a case filed against them by a customer.
According to law enforcement agencies' investigation, the e-commerce platform evaded Tk13 lakh in vat and allegedly gobbled up around Tk1,100 crore in advance money without delivering products purchased to customers.
On 3 October, Detective Branch (DB) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) arrested e-commerce platform Qcoom owner Ripon Mia after similar allegations surfaced against the platform.
DB, following primary investigation, has found that Qcoom owes at least Tk250 crore to its customers.
Meanwhile, CID Cyber Police started a shadow investigation into the incidents of deception with customers by e-commerce companies.
Other companies that are suspected of fraud are ringID, Shirajganj Shop, Adyan Mart, Dalal Plus, SPC World Express, Aladin's Prodip, Boom Boom, Priyoshop, 24tkt, Needs, Nirapod Shop, Play & Win, Tiktiki, Shop Up e-loans, Shadhin, Uthao Cash, RapidCash- Quick Online eLoans App, Shahoj Life & lively, e-Shop India and BD Like.
Amid the controversies, to protect the customers' interest, the commerce ministry on 30 June finalised Digital Commerce Operational Guide-2021 mandating the delivery of a product to the customer within five days after advance payment.
Additionally, the Bangladesh Bank introduced an escrow service so that online shoppers can cancel purchase orders at any time after ordering a product
On 15 October, a 15-member committee was formed with the instruction of the cabinet division to protect the interests of e-commerce consumers and merchants.