House panel backs measure granting more teeth to Consumer Act

The House Committee on Appropriations endorsed last week the plenary approval of an unnumbered substitute measure, which seeks to strengthen Republic Act (RA) 7394, or the Consumer Act of the Philippines.

The unnumbered substitute measure is entitled, “An Act for the establishment of a Timbangan ng Bayan Center in all markets nationwide, amending for the purpose, Chapter II of RA 7394, otherwise known as the Consumer Act of the Philippines.”

The bill, which was principally authored by Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of the Second District of Pampanga, seeks to promote honesty in the marketplace, particularly in using a timbangan, or weighing devices.

Under the bill, individuals who fraudulently alter any scale, balance, weight or measure after it was officially sealed will be slapped with a fine between P50,000 and P1 million, and/or imprisonment between one and five years.

The Consumer Act of the Philippines currently prescribes a fine of just P300 and a one-year jail term for such offenses. It was signed into law on April 13, 1992.

In her explanatory note, Macapagal-Arroyo said the violability of the Philippine economy due to numerous uncontrollable factors, one of which is the global economic slowdown, has caused prices of prime commodities to “scale to prohibitive heights,” making it more power difficult for the average Filipino household to put a decent meal on their table.

“The establishment of a Timbangan ng Bayan Center in all public markets nationwide will provide the buying public an effective means of checking the accuracy of the weight and quantity of the goods they are buying while, at the same time, discouraging dishonest vendors to commit any irregularity because of the imminence of getting caught in flagrante delicto,” Arroyo said.

For his part, House Committee on Appropriations Chairman Karlo Alexi B. Nograles of Davao said the measure seeks to further improve the protection of consumers by the state.

“The Consumer Act has been in effect for almost 26 years now, so some of its provisions need to be attuned to the times,” Nograles said.

“Vendors will definitely think twice about committing them once the law gets more teeth,” he added.

During a deliberation on its resulting substitute bill on January 17, the appropriations panel recommended that the measure’s appropriations provision (Section 6) indicate that “the amount necessary to carry out the provisions of Section 1…shall be charged against the internal revenue allotment (IRA) and other funds of the local government unit (LGU) concerned.”

Section 1 of the measure effectively inserts a new provision under Article 62 of Chapter II of RA 7394. The provision calls for the establishment of Timbangan ng Bayan Centers in all markets in the country “where instruments for determining weights and measures shall be open for and accessible to anyone who wants to verify the accuracy of the quantity and measurement of the products they purchased.”

“Once in place, Timbangan ng Bayan Centers will give Filipino homemakers and other individuals the assurance that they will not be duped by shrewd vendors with their under-calibrated weighing scales. It’s also a good way to pinpoint who the cheaters are in the marketplace,” Nograles said.

“We’re putting provincial, city and municipal governments in charge of this undertaking through their internal revenue allotment,” he said.

The IRA is the share that LGUs receive from taxes collected by the national government.


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