Stuck in a rut: e-commerce firms decry payment delay

Sixteen e-commerce firms say billions of takas have been stuck in payment gateways for as long as two months, a new development in the burgeoning, but scam-hit online business.

They filed a complaint with the e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh recently, saying they are not getting the money from the gateways even after delivering products. The complaint came amid investigations into the allegations of fraud against some e-commerce firms.

Bangladesh Bank says the manual system of checking receipt confirmation from customers is delaying the clearance of the payment, but the money is “not stuck”.

A payment gateway is a technology used by merchants to accept purchases from customers by debit or credit card or with mobile money. The payment gateway works as a medium for the clearance of the payment between the customers and the providers of services or products, or for other transactions.

In Bangladesh, BRAC Bank, the City Bank, Eastern Bank Ltd, Mutual Trust Bank, Dutch-Bangla Bank and Islami Bank have payment gateways. SSLCOMMERZ, government firm Ekpay, aamarPay, shurjoPay, EasyPay and some other payment gateways are also operating.

Amid a horde of allegations against some e-commerce firms, such as Evaly and Eorange, over their failure to deliver products and pay the suppliers, the commerce ministry in early July issued a set of instructions for digital commerce companies.

It ordered them to deliver products within 10 days. According to the instructions, the companies will get the payments only after the customers confirm receipt of the products. In this period, the funds will stay in the payment gateways.

Abdul Wahed Tomal, secretary general of e-CAB, said they had earlier objected to the manual clearance from the payment gateways, expressing fear that the system will create a logjam. “Now it has come true.” 

Online shopping platform Qcoom has Tk 4 billion stuck in the gateways – Tk 2 billion of its own and the equal amount belonging to its clients, according to Asif Ahnaf, a director of e-CAB. It has not received payment for some products delivered in July.

The other firms that complained about the system include AleshaMart and Anonder Bazar.

Rafeza Aktar, deputy general manager for payment gateway systems at Bangladesh Bank, said the gateways call the customers or send SMS for the confirmation of receipt, but many customers are not replying.

“Many such small issues are leading to the delay as the system is not automatic yet, but it’s not correct that the money has been stuck or will not be paid.”

She advised the payment gateways or the e-commerce firms to find out an automatic system for the confirmation. “Until then, the problem will persist.”