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Pay back money stuck in e-com payment gateways: HC

Published : 01 Nov 2021 10:24 PM | Updated : 03 Nov 2021 01:46 PM

The High Court has issued a ruling asking the authorities concerned to return the customers’ money stuck in the different payment gateways. 

In the ruling, the higher court has raised a question over the failure or inaction of the finance ministry and the Bangladesh Bank in taking necessary initiatives for refunding the money of the e-commerce customers stuck in the payment gateways.

 The High Court bench of Justice Md Mozibur Rahman Miah and Justice Md Kamrul Hossain Mollah issued the ruling on Monday (November 1) after hearing a writ petition. A consumer rights group on October 21 filed the writ petition in the High Court, seeking its directive to refund the e-commerce customers’ money stuck in the payment gateways. 

Read more: Payment gateways loiter over paying back money

Barrister Sabrina Zarin filed the writ petition on behalf of the Conscious Consumers Society (CCS). The lawyer along with Barrister Abdul Qaium appeared in the hearing on Monday for the writ petition, while deputy attorney general Nawroz Md Russel Chowdhury represented the state.

In the ruling, the HC bench asked the respondents to explain in four weeks as to why the failure or inaction of the finance ministry and the Bangladesh Bank in issuing necessary directives upon the five payment gateways-- bKash, Nagad, SSL Wireless, Foster Payments and Shurjo Pay-- for refunding the consumers’ money should not be declared illegal.

It also wanted to know from the respondents to explain as to why the finance ministry and the central bank should not be directed to issue necessary directives upon the five payment gateways, BKash, Nagad, SSL Wireless, Foster Payments and Shurjo Pay, for refunding the consumers money withheld or kept by them.

The finance ministry, the governor of the Bangladesh Bank, general manager of the Payment Systems Department of that bank, the director-general of the World Trade Organisation cell of the commerce ministry, chief executive officers of mobile financial service provider bKash and Nagad, payment gateway SSL Wireless, Foster Pay, and Surjo Pay were made respondents to the ruling.

Barrister Sabrina Zarin said that thousands of customers invested money in different e-commerce platforms. 

As per the rule, if no one gets the product, he or she would get the money back. However, the money invested by the customers did not get a refund of their money. The authorities concerned have no headache over the matter. As a result, the customers have fallen into uncertainty over the refund of their money. 

“Against this backdrop, we filed the writ petition seeking High Court's directives. After hearing, the court issued the rule,” said the lawyer. 

Earlier on October 17, the CCS served a legal notice to the relevant stakeholders of the e-commerce sector, demanding a refund of consumers’ money that are stuck with payment gateways. The notice sought explanation within seven days, but the CCS did not get any response, Later, they filed the writ petition. 

CCS Executive Director Palash Mahmud said that thousands of customers’ money is stuck in the escrow systems. The gateways are saying they need permission from the government or the e-commerce company to release the money. 

The central bank introduced the escrow service in July this year amid widespread allegations of fraud and irregularities against various e-commerce platforms like Evaly and Dhamaka.

In an escrow payment service, money paid by the customers for the goods ordered from the 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 goods.

According to insiders, around Tk 210 crore is stuck with the different payment gateways.