After the Bangladesh Bank recently published guidelines on payments to digital commerce businesses (DCB) in their circular dated 30th June 2021, the Ministry of Commerce has published further guidelines, namely the Digital Commerce Operational Guidelines on 4th July 2021, mainly covering consumer protection aspects. The guidelines aim to ensure transparency, responsibility and accountability in managing digital commerce (DC), to create employment through digital businesses (DBs), and to ensure consumer growth and ascertain their rights through disciplining DBs.  Further, these guidelines intend to help create a competitive market through which new entrepreneurs will rise. The highlights of the new set of guidelines are as follows:

Restricted products in the market place:

  • Multilevel marketing (MLM) or Network Businesses cannot be managed through DC or E-commerce.
  • Drugs, explosives or any other prohibited items or services cannot be purchased or sold digitally. Organising or taking part in online betting or online gambling is strictly prohibited.
  • Purchase and sale of medicines and medical supplies cannot be done digitally unless a license is acquired from the Department of Drug Administration.

Data privacy and protection:

  • If the seller’s website has any cookies, the buyer must be made aware of it immediately upon visiting the site.
  • If there is any personal information that has to be gathered at the time of purchase-sale, the website should inform the purchaser about the type of information that will be gathered, where that information will be stored, where that information will be used in the future, and the procedure through which that information will be processed before obtaining consent. The use of checkboxes or some other method of declaration should be built into the website to ensure that the purchaser is made aware of the terms and conditions related to the gathering of their personal information

DCBs to obtain and present trade license number and other information:

  • All DCBs must obtain (whichever is relevant) and present their trade license, VAT registration number, TIN, Unique Business Identification Number (UBIN) or Personal Retail Account (PRA) on their social media page or website.

No Lotteries or Raffledraws:

  • DCBs cannot organize any lotteries or raffledraws without prior consent from the government. S.294(B) of the Penal Code 1960 is applicable in this regard.

Terms and Conditions must be written in Bangla:

  • In the DC marketplace or Facebook page used for purchasing-selling, refunds, return of goods, replacement of goods, method of delivery, delivery time, and other conditions must be listed in Bangla and presented in a clear manner. The conditions can be listed in another language in addition to Bangla. Any terms and conditions that are in contradiction with any laws of Bangladesh that is at present in effect cannot be listed in the marketplace or the social media page.

Foreign DCBs must obtain prior permission:

  • Foreign DCBs have to be registered in Bangladesh before they can commence business in Bangladesh and must obtain the necessary permissions required from the relevant authorities before managing their business.

Presentation of the product in the market place:

  • There are various requirements listed in terms of how the product should be presented in the market place and the packaging has to include its description, picture, size, shape, weight, weight, colour, where it was manufactured, date of manufacture, ingredients, whether it contains anything harmful to the health of any animal or human being or the environment, certificate of quality control, etc. In terms of the sale of services, the method of delivery, the equipments or technology to be used, qualifications of the one delivering the service, etc must be mentioned. Details of the product (country of origin, brand, model, delivery time) should be included to allow buyers to make an informed decision.

Conditions related to delivery:

  • The product has to be handed over to the delivery-man within 48 hours from the time that full payment for the product is made and the same must be informed to the purchaser via telephone, email or SMS. The marketplace to track the deliveries can use a tracking system. 
  • If the seller and purchaser are located in the same city or village, delivery must be made to the purchaser within 5 days. If they are located in a different city or village, delivery must be made within 10 days.
  • 100% advance payments can be taken only for goods that are ‘ready to ship’. If the good is out of stock (such that it cannot be handed over to the delivery-man within 48 hours from the time of payment), then advanced payment over 10% of the price of the goods cannot be received, unless there is an escrow service system in place with the permission of Bangladesh Bank, in which case 100% advanced payment can still be received.

Complaints procedure:

  • The marketplace must keep a system in place to entertain complaints and the relevant app or platform should clearly state the phone number, email or any other method through which any complaint can be made. Every DCB has to have a compliance officer who will coordinate with the Department of Consumer Rights.
  • A record of the complaints should be kept and any solution to the problem should be communicated to the client within 72 hours through phone, email or sms.
  • Websites, apps and other platforms should have a system in place for receiving reviews and ratings for the products. Anyone connected to the DCB cannot take part in reviewing or rating products. Reviews cannot be erased. 
  • If it is not possible to supply the product that the purchaser wanted as a result of unforeseeable circumstances (beyond the seller’s control), the same should be communicated to the purchaser within 48 hours from the time of order via phone, sms, email or any other method. Within 72 hours after that, a full refund has to be made to the purchaser.

Refund policy:

  • In the case where an advanced payment has been made and there is a delay in delivery, a full refund must be made to the purchaser within 10 days through the medium used to pay for the purchase.

Written and compiled by Tajriyaan Akram Hussain, Associate, Mahbub & Company.

The full set of guidelines can be accessed HERE.