BB instructs payment gateways to start paying back e-commerce consumers
BB instructs payment gateways to start paying back e-commerce consumers

Advance payments worth Tk512 crore have been stuck with payment gateways, which led to several consumers filing cases with the court that are currently on trial

The central bank has asked electronic payment gateways to start refunding people who were scammed out of paying in advance for products they never received from “discount” websites which later turned out to be ponzi schemes.

Advance payments worth Tk512 crore have been stuck with payment gateways, which led to several consumers filing cases with the court that are currently on trial, namely against Evaly, Dhamaka shopping, eorange, Sirajganj shop, and Qcoom; which may further prolong the refund process.

In this regard, following the instruction of the commerce ministry sent to the central bank, Bangladesh Bank (BB) sent letters to six payment gateways entailing Nagad, Software Shop, Surjomukhi Ltd, Foster Corporation Ltd, bKash, and Southeast Bank on Wednesday, instructing them to start refunding the money of consumers who do not have an ongoing trial in the court.

The Commerce Ministry had asked Bangladesh Bank to begin the refunding process for e-commerce consumers whose payments have been stuck in payment gateways.

However, the ministry only asked to process refunds for consumers who have not filed a case, as the process already has been delayed due to the Law Ministry not responding to its intervention sought by the Commerce Ministry.

According to AHM Shafiquzzaman, additional commerce secretary, the intervention was required from the Law Ministry for consumers having legal disputes filed with the court.

But since such vetting is not required for consumers who have not filed any case, the central bank had asked to first start paying those who did not file court cases against fraudulent e-commerce companies, according to the ministry official.

Speaking to Dhaka Tribune, Head of Corporate Communications of bKash Shamsuddin Haider Dalim said: “According to the letter ‘PSD/ADC & L(E-Commerce)/52/2021: 2625-2630’ issued by Bangladesh Bank dated December 15, 2021, bKash is taking necessary steps accordingly to refund the money.”

However, Foster Payments and SSLCOMMERZ were unable to provide comments at the time of the filing of this report.

The central bank also asked payment gateways to scrutinize the information of buyers before giving the refunds.

The central bank introduced the escrow service in July to regulate fraudulent e-commerce platforms like Evaly and Dhamaka, in response to the allegations brought against them of taking advance money and not delivering products or giving refunds.

In an escrow payment service, money paid by customers for ordered goods from e-commerce companies gets deposited in third-party payment gateways.

The companies receive the money after submitting supporting documents proving the goods have been delivered.

However, many customers claimed that they neither got their products nor the money they paid for the undelivered goods.

According to e-CAB, the main problem was the escrow system not being automated. The manual operations have been delaying the distribution of the funds that are stuck.

“Several e-commerce shops have also been unable to access the advances paid by buyers even after delivering products as the money is stuck with the payment gateways,” e-CAB Vice-President Shahab Uddin said.

The Commerce Ministry and Bangladesh Bank have decided to pay back the Tk512 crore stuck with payment gateways following an inter-ministerial meeting last month.

A 15-member high-powered committee was formed by the cabinet division in September to refund the stuck money of consumers.

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