The cabinet committee on e-commerce is going to recommend speedy repayment of the money stuck in escrow service to the customers of e-commerce companies who have not been sued.
Besides, the committee will recommend enacting a new law and creating a separate authority to regulate the e-commerce sector, a member of the committee, told The Business Standard on condition of anonymity.
The committee will recommend the formation of a board or commission to refund the money of the customers who were deceived by these e-commerce companies before the launch of the escrow service on 30 June this year. The board will make arrangements to refund the money to the customers after verifying the information and evidence provided by them, the official said.
However, it is up to the law ministry to decide whether the customers — who placed orders with the controversial e-commerce companies, including Dhamaka and eOrange, against whom cases have been filed — will be able to get their money back from the payment gateway under the escrow service.
The committee member said a written opinion would be obtained from the law ministry on Wednesday.
He said, "If the law ministry says that the money of those customers can also be refunded through the payment gateway, then we also will recommend the Bangladesh Bank to do so."
"The government has no information about customers who have been deceived by these companies before 30 June. The customers deposited money directly into the accounts of e-commerce companies. We will recommend to the Cabinet Division to form a board or commission to look into the allegations of those deceived customers and take action to settle their arrears," he added.
The member of the cabinet committee on e-commerce further said, "If the law ministry says that the money of the customers of e-commerce companies with pending cases cannot be refunded without the court's direction, then we will recommend to take action according to the court's instructions."
According to the Bangladesh Bank, customers have paid a total of Tk505.83 crore through payment gateways till 14 October, ordering various products and services, since the launching of escrow service in e-commerce transactions on 30 June.
Payment gateways have released Tk291.57 crore in favour of e-commerce companies after they delivered goods and services. The remaining Tk214.26 crore paid by the customers has been deposited with SSL, Suryamukhi Lee, Foster Corporation, bkash, Nagad and Southeast Bank.
In this context, the Bangladesh Bank has sought the commerce ministry's opinion on refunding the money paid by the customers to the e-commerce companies whose activities are closed.
The cabinet committee on e-commerce held a final meeting on Tuesday. After the meeting, the head of the committee and Additional Secretary to the commerce ministry AHM Safiquzzaman said, "We will submit our report with recommendations to the cabinet division on Wednesday."
However, another member of the committee told TBS, "We have not yet received the opinion of the law ministry. Besides, we are yet to receive data from some other agencies. We will try to submit the report on Wednesday. If not, we will submit it on Thursday."
Safiquzzaman said, "In order to bring the e-commerce sector under control, every organisation will be brought under a unique business identification number. Hardcopy and soft copy have already been finalised in this regard. Now the work on app development is going on by the Access to Information (a2i) programme of the Prime Minister's Office. Hopefully we will launch it soon."
He said the process of refunding the money stuck in the payment gateway has also been discussed with the cabinet division. All the stakeholders including Bangladesh Bank were present there. The process is now in litigation. Opinions have been sought from the law ministry to resolve the issue.
"As soon as we get the opinion of the law ministry, we will start refunding the money of customers of the e-commerce companies which are not in the litigation. We are working on how to return the money of customers of e-commerce companies involved in the litigation," he said, adding that four cases of e-commerce related complaints have been filed while 11 cases of money laundering are being investigated.
"The commerce ministry is no longer looking into Evaly's case. The court has set up a board to decide on the issues related to Evaly," he added.