Amid a persistent increase in inquiries and concerns about online transactions, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is reminding businesses and online sellers that consumer protection laws apply to brick-and-mortar and online stores.
As the primary government agency responsible for consumer protection, the DTI said it works to address consumer concerns and provide “timely” resolutions to the public. In line with this, DTI highlighted the importance of a measure that aims to strengthen consumer confidence in shifting to the use of online platforms for shopping.
In 2022, DTI, along with other agencies, issued Joint Administrative Order (JAO) No. 22-01 on “Guidelines for Online Businesses Reiterating the Laws and Regulations Applicable to Online Businesses and Consumers,” which aims to increase public trust in e-commerce and boost consumer confidence in shifting to online shopping.
Through this JAO, DTI said online businesses were reminded to comply with rules and regulations on warranties, labeling, and other requirements under existing laws including desisting from selling prohibited items as well as regulated items without the proper approval from concerned regulatory agencies.
In 2022, the DTI reported that the Fair Trade Enforcement Bureau (FTEB), its enforcement arm, received 27,947 complaints, of which 44 percent or 12,170 pertains to online transactions.
Of the 12,170 complaints, 2,484 were resolved, 9,093 were referred to the appropriate agencies, 394 were withdrawn, and the remaining 199 complaints were issued Certificates to File Action.
The trade department said it also received complaints about online scams, such as using fake identities to appear as legitimate merchants, unregistered sales promotions, malicious online shopping sites, and pyramiding.
In addressing these, the DTI said it coordinated with the Philippine National Police (PNP), the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and other concerned agencies to combat their proliferation. Moreover, DTI said it continued educating consumers on how to avoid scams.
Meanwhile, the DTI also pushed for the passage of the Internet Transactions Act (ITA), which aims to “build trust” between online sellers and consumers.
“The ITA will place mechanisms to safeguard merchants and consumers as they transact online such as the Online Business Registry [OBR] and the eCommerce Philippine Trustmark. The Trustmark will be given to merchants that uphold the rights of consumers and practice responsible business,” DTI said in a statement released on Wednesday.
Under the ITA, DTI said, persons involved in e-commerce who purposely utilize the Philippine market will be considered to be conducting business within the country.
Consequently, DTI said these persons would have to adhere to all applicable laws and regulations in the Philippines.
Moreover, DTI said the bill arms the Trade and Industry Secretary with the power to issue an order directing that a website, webpage, online application, social media account, or other similar platform be taken down or made inaccessible in the Philippines for a maximum of 30 days for those found to be in violation of the law. DTI Consumer Protection Group (CPG) Undersecretary Ruth B. Castelo underscored, “We need the ITA law passed. We hope its enactment can be fast-tracked.”
In the meantime, the DTI urged the public to be cautious, especially when engaging in online transactions. “Before making a purchase, you should select merchants carefully and confirm the online seller’s physical address and phone number. This will help DTI in clamping down on scammers in the online platform. Consumers must also review the return policy of the store,” Castelo added.
Castelo said, “We should also check the reviews posted by other buyers and keep a record of our transactions.”
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