If an e-commerce company fails to deliver in time a product that has been paid in advance during order placement, it will have to pay double the product price in penalty.
The buyer will be able to recover the fine by filing a case with the Directorate of Consumer Rights Protection.
If the seller is unable to deliver the product for any reason but refunds the full price to the buyer within seven days of the advance payment, they will not face any fine. However, in this case, if there is any charge, it has to be borne by the seller.
These are a few of many provisions kept in the draft Digital Commerce Operation Guidelines 2021 prepared by the Ministry of Commerce.
After holding a meeting on Thursday, the commerce ministry will publish the draft on its website for stakeholders' feedback.
According to the draft, in the case of an order placed by paying advance payment, the product must be delivered within a maximum of five days of the order if the product is in the same city and within 10 days if it is in other cities or village areas.
In case of cash on delivery and partial cash on delivery, products have to be delivered within a maximum of seven days in the same city and within a maximum of 15 days in different cities or villages.
If the product is not delivered within this stipulated time, its buyer will be able to collect the fine by filing a case.
Once the full price of a product is paid in advance, the product must be handed over to the delivery man within 24 hours of the advance payment and the buyer must be notified by a message.
However, these guidelines will be applicable to website or app-based institutional e-commerce companies.
The commerce ministry will issue separate guidelines for small e-commerce initiatives centered on Facebook and other social media platforms.
The number of website-based e-commerce companies in the country is now around 2,000. Meanwhile, there are more than 50,000 Facebook and other social media-centric initiatives.
The draft guidelines state that there must be terms and conditions between buyers and sellers for selling products on a website or app should be in place, where the sale, transportation, return, change and various other issues will be mentioned in detail.
Initiatives have also been taken to amend the law of the Directorate of Consumer Rights Protection to implement the guidelines.
All other laws in force in the country will apply to the conduct of digital commerce.
E-commerce entities will have to keep the necessary documents for government agencies concerned and provide them as required.
Hafizur Rahman, additional secretary of the Ministry of Commerce and head of the Central Digital Commerce Cell, told The Business Standard that the guidelines are being formulated to create a conducive environment for the development of the e-commerce sector by stopping fraud and restoring the confidence of buyers.
He said the Directorate of Consumer Rights Protection Act is being amended so that a consumer can file a suit for redressal if they do not receive the product within the stipulated time.
"After the meeting on Thursday, the draft will be published on the website and opinion of the stakeholders will be sought. Based on their opinion, the draft will be finalized after a meeting with the stakeholders. It will then be presented to the cabinet for approval."
According to the draft, the responsibility of supplying the product lies with the seller. The printed bill has to be paid at the time of delivery of the product, in which the Ecab (e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh) membership number of the company, price of the product and applicable tax will be mentioned.
E-commerce companies need to get membership at Ecab for business management.
According to the draft, buyers should immediately be confirmed by the seller about the order automatically through email, phone or SMS by mentioning the order number, product details and quantity, delivery time, total price immediately after ordering the product.
In case of any complaint, the phone number, e-mail address of the website, app or platform should be kept correct.
Customer care staff should be recruited in proportion to the number of customers. The buyer's complaint should be automatically recorded and any complaint should be resolved within 72 hours.
If it is not possible to supply the product as per the demand of the buyer for any reason, the seller must inform the buyer of this within 72 hours of placing the order.
Other charges (if any) including proper description, price and delivery of the salable goods and services should be clearly stated. Ingredients of the product and its quantity, chemical composition, expiration date should also be mentioned.
Additionally, the approval of the product regulatory authorities and if there is any risk to human health involved with the use of the product, they should also be mentioned.
The draft guidelines further states that the products displayed for sale should be under the control of the seller and the quantity of products in stock should be mentioned in the notification and should be updated regularly.
In case of advance price collection, the displayed product must be at the "ready to ship" stage within the country.
No more than 10% advance can be accepted for products that are abroad or not ready to ship.
If there is any kind of offer, discount, free delivery or any other benefit, it should be clearly mentioned in the product description.
Prices of products and all kinds of taxes should be mentioned properly so that buyers can make an easy decision.