More than half of the customers cancelled their orders for products and services to the much-hyped online shopping platform Evaly in the one year until January 2021.
According to a report of the Directorate of National Consumers' Right Protection, a large number of customers who cancelled their orders were not refunded in due time; Evaly refunded less than 9% of the buyers who had paid in advance.
In the meantime, many Evaly customers filed complaints with the consumers directorate after getting neither the products nor any refund.
In the report sent to the commerce ministry, Consumers Rights Directorate Director General Bablu Kumar Saha said as many as 2,180 lawsuits were filed with the directorate against Evaly until 28 February this year.
After hearing both the parties, the directorate has disposed of 1,797 cases under the Consumers' Right Protection Act till that date.
"In future, any customer complaint against Evaly will also be settled under the existing rules and regulations to protect the interest of buyers," Saha wrote to the commerce ministry.
Currently the Bangladesh Bank and the home ministry are looking into several allegations against the popular shopping platform, including unusual delivery delays even after advance payments and financial irregularities.
In an earlier report, the home ministry said it had found evidence that Evaly violated the Consumers' Rights Protection Act and several sections of the Bangladesh Penal Code. Subsequently, the commerce ministry ordered Evaly to run its business on a cash-on-delivery basis to prevent buyers from being subjected to harassment.
When contacted, the founder and CEO of Evaly.com.bd, Mohammad Rassel said, "It is difficult to run the business with so many controversies."
Rassel said Evaly has already introduced a cash-on-delivery system to ride out the controversies and will expand its payment method in future.
Launched in 2018, Evaly had been running its business with payments in advance. It gained huge popularity in a short time compared to its market rivals since the e-commerce platform offers products at very lucrative rates – often at half the market price.
On the business model, the e-commerce CEO previously told the media that Evaly collects orders, buys in bulk at a discounted rate, and then delivers the products. After placing the order and payment in advance, a customer has to wait 45 days as Evaly takes enough orders in the meantime for the in-bulk purchase at discounted rates.
Thus, Evaly translates the 45-day wait and advance payment in lower product rates, Rassel explained.
But in 2020, Evaly's thriving business experienced major setbacks in the face of media reports on customer allegations about unusual delays in delivery and refund. In light of the reports, the government launched inquiries about the e-commerce giant in Bangladesh.
Delivery rate around 33% in one year
On commerce ministry instructions, the Consumers' Rights Directorate collected Evaly order, delivery, order cancelling and refund data from January 2020 to January 2021.
The data show Evaly got 1.086 crore orders in the one year until January 2021. In that period, the e-commerce start-up delivered 35.45 lakh orders, clocking a 32.98% delivery rate.
In the period in question, 62.59 lakh orders were cancelled, which is 57.58% of total orders. After cancelling the orders, 5.59 lakh customers, or 8.93% of the total cancelled orders, were refunded.
Evaly CEO Mohammad Rassel said many customers place orders without making an advance payment, which get cancelled later. Besides, orders with partial payments also get cancelled if the full payment is not made within the next eight to ten days.
"Again, the buyer can cancel the order despite the full payment. We also cancel some orders when the stock of a product runs out. Therefore, you cannot say all the cancelled orders will be refunded," he noted.
"Those who have cancelled orders after making full payment in advance and those whose orders have been cancelled by Evaly will only qualify for refunds.
The refund figures are low as the number of such cases are low," he added.
Evaly month data analysis shows that the e-commerce platform received 20.03 lakh orders in January this year while it delivered 2.65 lakh orders. In other words, the delivery rate was 13% in that month.
In January, 13.62 lakh orders were cancelled, and 21,842 cancelled orders were refunded. The refund rate stands at 1.60% of the total cancelled orders.
In December, Evaly received 19.86 lakh orders but delivered 4.40 lakh of the shopping deals – clocking a 22.17% delivery rate.
In the last one year, Evaly's delivery rate in June and July reached 50% while its average delivery rate in the remaining ten months was less than 30%.
Rassel says product delivery used to take them a bit longer, but the delivery time has been gradually reducing.
"We are now delivering products within 15-20 days, except motorcycles. Motorcycle delivery takes more time, but grocery items are being delivered shortly after orders are placed," he said, adding the delivery will be faster in the days ahead.