DTI pushes for law regulating online platforms, businesses

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Citing the need to support Filipino platforms and businesses on the Internet, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) secretary Ramon Lopez called on Thursday, Sept. 3, for the immediate passage of Senate Bill 1591, or the proposed “Internet Transactions Act,” authored by Senators Sherwin Gatchalian and Nancy Binay.

During the joint hearing of the Senate Committee on Trade, Commerce, and Entrepreneurship chaired by Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, as well as the committees on Finance and Ways and Means, Lopez noted the relevance of the proposed measure given the growing number of online merchants and the corresponding increase in consumer complaints. He added that this will also promote and enhance consumer protection.

“With the bill’s regulatory framework for Internet transactions, it will promote and support Filipino platforms and businesses based on the principle that domestic online platforms shall be treated under the law equally as offshore non-resident online platforms,” Lopez said. 

“This means domestic online platforms shall be given opportunities to grow and be competitive in the digital market. What’s more, the Senate bill provides incentives to encourage newly registered online enterprises, especially during this time of pandemic, to operate above-ground,” he added.

The trade chief also noted that the bill will protect the interests of Filipino consumers by providing them effective remedies for their complaints, even if sellers are located abroad. The bill will ensure the Philippine government’s regulatory authority over foreign platforms or sellers. 

Under the proposed law, the DTI shall have regulatory powers to take down or issue cease-and-desist orders against websites selling illegal or dangerous products or services.

Further, the DTI said the supports the development of the eCommerce Philippine Trustmark to provide greater public assurance of safety and security in Internet transactions.

“This bill will balance the interests of entrepreneurs, consumers, and the government by establishing a forum for stakeholders to raise issues and concerns surrounding e-commerce,” Lopez said.  “Under this measure, regulation can occur under an environment of stakeholder consultation. This regulatory approach and framework is based on experience after years of observing actual developments on the ground in the emergence of e-commerce, which can be promoted as a regional model moving forward,” he explained. 

The proposed Internet Transactions Act was previously mentioned by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte during the State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July. During his address, the president directed DTI and other relevant government agencies to work closely with Congress to ensure the provisions of the proposed bill are responsive to the needs of the consumers while promoting the growth of e-commerce in the country.

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