The Covid-19 crisis has hit many hard. But it has cheered the logistics services as thousands of orders and deliveries are being made every day.
Owners of more than 350 parcel delivering companies are making a big profit now along several others doing business on Facebook-based commerce.
Several traditional courier service providers have been working over the years along with the Bangladesh Post Office to meet the growing demand for sending documents and parcels to different parts of the country.
People became reliant on the private courier services, to send parcel, documents and get deliveries from different corners of the country, as these companies gave quicker services in the recent past.
Taking this into account, the government introduced the Mailing Operators and Courier Service Rules 2010.
In line with this, the government amended the Post Office Act 1898 and introduced the Post Office (Amendment) Act 2010 to ensure accountability and improve the service quality of private courier services providers.
Later, Mailing Operator and Courier Service Rules 2013 and Courier Service (Customs Assessment) Operation and Licensing Rules 2016 were also formulated.
According to the Courier Service Operation and Licensing Rules 2016, these companies must get registered from the licencing authority by paying a non-refundable licence fee. Also, the licence must be renewed after every three years.
But many logistics service providers are doing business without a licence or authorisation. Even a few have not renewed licence despite its expiry.
Apart from traditional courier service providers like Sundarban, SA Paribahan, e-commerce and F-commerce, and e-courier service providers mushroomed recently amid the pandemic.
Paperfly, e-courier, Pathao and Biddyut and many other app-based parcel service platforms did not confine their business to big cities.
These parcel delivery services are working to meet the demand of people to have food, beverage, and other products delivered at their doorstep.
The consumers are mostly ordering groceries, processed food, medical safety products, seasonal fruits, and medicines now.
However, many studies conducted recently suggested traditional and online courier services were largely failing to meet people's expectations.
The service charge for parcel and document delivery, higher than expected, was heavily criticised.
Many traditional courier service providers increased service charge irrationally amid the outbreak and people do not have many alternatives.
As per the rules, the customs authority can impose a penalty on a courier company for breaching any government rule but its enactment was hardly seen in this case.
Also, digitally operated logistics service companies were being criticised for not only imposing high delivery charges but also for unpleasant consumer experiences. This means what they delivered were low in quality compared to what the customers ordered.
According to the Consumer Rights Protection Act 2009, it is a punishable offence to deceive people by false advertisements to sell a product or service. However, online customers' rights are being violated, in many ways, regularly.
The question is how far the existing law, introduced to protect the interest of the people, will remain relevant when some companies are doing businesses ignoring government guidelines.
Also, there is no uniform delivery charge for traditional and online courier services. And there is a wide difference among them.
Considering the interest of the people and to ensure fair deals through e-commerce, the cabinet approved the draft National Digital Commerce Policy 2018.
But it has not yet been completely effective as people have not been that much aware of their rights and privileges.
As the logistics service companies have greater scopes to serve the nation and contribute to the country's economy, they must align their services with people's demand and need.
Also, the government should take the matter seriously so that no unauthorised company or individuals can operate courier service in the country.
The existing law made for mailing operators and courier service providers should be modified. All mailing operators and courier companies will have to follow a uniform delivery charge set by the government.
Also, the monitoring team will have to be alert to prevent the transport of banned goods through courier services, and to protect customer rights.
If any directive of the government is violated, action should be taken immediately to ensure a healthy environment in this growing sector.
Alaul Alam teaches at Prime University. He can be reached at: [email protected].