The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) is optimistic that an efficient and affordable e-commerce could help sustain economic activities and drive growth as the country continues to manage Covid-19 risks and transitions to a new way of life.
NEDA acting secretary Karl Kendrick Chua expects online shopping and marketing platforms would play bigger role in the “new normal” as businesses and consumers increase the use of electronic transactions, including cashless payment system and other financial technology platforms.
The NEDA-led Inter-agency Task Force Technical Working Group for Anticipatory and Forward Planning (IATF-TWG for AFP) launched three separate surveys from April 5-8, 2020, targeting the consumers, agriculture, industry and services sectors and the general public.
The results of the consumer survey, which generated data from 389,859 respondents, showed that more than 50 percent in the non-government sectors experienced a decline in income, largely due to the loss of their source of livelihood.
Many had difficulty in accessing goods and services because of the closure of business establishments, imposition of early curfews, and lack of public transportation. “Businesses need to innovate and make full use of technology to resume operations and cater to consumer needs and preferences while still managing risks of Covid-19 infection,” Chua said.
Among the recommended legislative actions include to revisit the Electronic Commerce Act of 2000 to make it more comprehensive in detailing transactions covered by the law, specifying the rights of consumers, and strengthening the penalties imposed on service providers.
“Businesses need to make online shopping easy, affordable, and secure for consumers so that they need not go out to buy what they need and want,” Chua said, adding that investments in ICT infrastructure will also have to be boosted to meet the surge of online transactions and the consumers’ expectations for reliable digital connectivity.
He also encouraged financial institutions to implement better cyber-security measures and regulations for both consumers and merchants or establishments. In addition, he said changes in consumer preferences such as the rising demand for safe and nutritious food would require strict enforcement of food safety laws, regulations, standards, and sanitation protocols.
To help protect consumers from loss and uncertainty, information and education campaign on insurance policies will also be needed. “The passage of the Financial Consumer Protection Bill will provide the regulatory framework to protect the interest of financial consumers and reinforce confidence in financial markets,” Chua added.