The Courier Service Licencing Authority (CSLA) is going to introduce punitive measures, including imprisonment and fines, for the unlicenced courier service companies, according to officials at the regulator.
They said that hundreds of courier services are operating in the country without any licence, but those could not be brought under the law due to lack of necessary provision.
Several moves of the CSLA to bring the operators under monitoring and regulation proved to be futile exercise as the authority is functioning with inadequate manpower, fund and resources.
The two-room office of the authority is running with only a few ad-hoc employees at GPO building in Dhaka. The full organogram of the authority is waiting at the ministry concerned for approval.
Amid rapid growth of privately-owned courier companies, the 'Mailing Operator and Courier Service Rules, 2013' was adopted in November 2013 and the Mailing Operator and Courier Service authority was established in February, 2014.
A recent investigation conducted by the authority found that few hundreds of courier services are running only in Motijhil, Dilkusha and Paltan areas in the capital without any licence.
Only 75 domestic courier operators, out of around 1,000, have so far taken licences from the authority. Half of the 150 member companies of the Courier Service Association of Bangladesh (CSAB) are yet to take the licences.
CSAB has become a part of the authority as per the new rule as membership of the association is a pre-condition for securing a licence.
According to the rule, agencies of courier service operators also require a licence, but not a single agency took the license to date.
An administrative official of the licencing authority said they could not punish the unlicenced companies as the rule does not have options for punishment.
Now, the ministry concerned has taken a move to include punitive measures, including imprisonment and fine, in the rule, he said.
Joint Secretary of the ministry of post and telecommunications Md Jehsan Islam has recently been appointed as the chairman of the authority.
He said he would bring the authority in order soon and take a new office outside the present premises.
Contacted, CSAB president Hafizur Rahman Pulok said the new members are not interested in spending money to obtain licences and its renewal as the already-licenced operators do not get any protection from the authority.
"There are around 1,000 domestic courier services doing business and the authority does not care about bring them under its watch," he said, raising question why the licenced ones would pay money if they do not get protection from the authority.
He said the association members are losing business to the unlicenced operators as they always offer lesser prices.
The recent developments in digital communication and electronic money transfer hit the courier service business hard, but e-commerce compensated for the losses.
According to executives at the CSAB, some of the biggest e-commerce firms have applied for the association memberships as they want to deliver their goods to the customers on their own.
The police department often alleges that the courier service operators in the country carry arms, ammunition, drugs and other contraband items.
The CSAB president said there must be some coordination among the courier services, the authority and the law enforcing agencies.
He said smugglers are sending drugs and other banned items by giving false declarations to pass them off as harmless commodities.
The law enforcement agencies have seized a few of such dubious parcels.
The authority expected that around Tk 500 million will be collected as licence, agency permission and compensatory fees in the first year while the collection would gradually increase in the coming years with the licence renewal process.
But they could make only a few millions in the last seven years, according to the association.
Of the major duties and responsibilities, the authority issues licences to mailing operators and courier service providers alongside providing consent for agency operations. It realises licence, agency permission and other compensatory fees.
The government worked out its collection method, determining the standard of services provided by the mailing operators and courier service providers as well as monitoring those.
Under the rules, the mailing operators and courier service providers are classified into three categories - domestic mailing operator and courier service provider, on-board mailing operator and courier service provider, and international mailing operator and courier service provider.
There are 30 on-board and 85 international courier services operating their businesses in the country besides domestic ones.