Monday, June 17, 2024

Consumer group asks DICT to revoke license of J&T, partners

A consumer group filed a case on Thursday, Aug. 25, at the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to revoke the operating licenses of courier firm J&T Express and its franchise partners due to alleged unlawful business practices.

According to the United Filipino Consumers and Commuters (UFCC), J&T Express undermines DICT’s efforts in regulating postal delivery service and threatens the growth and stability of the Philippine digital economy, which is a crucial sector for the country’s economic recovery plans.

“Because of the nature and the gravity of the violations and they’re so widespread, the punishment cannot be less than revocation. Dapat revocation na ng license ‘to,” said former congressman and UFCC national advisor Jonathan Dela Cruz. 

“Considering how pervasive J&T’s services are nationwide, its numerous violations against the Postal Service Act and other laws are sufficient grounds to revoke its ‘Authority to Operate Express and/or Messenger Delivery Service’ license,” said Dela Cruz.

“We are not singling out J&T. However, most of the complaints that our office has received are about them,” he added.

The DICT has the exclusive power to regulate and issue licenses to courier and delivery firms. It inherited this function from Telecommunications Office (Telof), which it absorbed from the former Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).  

DICT secretary Ivan Uy told Newsbytes.PH during the recently concluded Visayas ICT Organization conference in Boracay Island that he has yet to see the actual copy of the complaint.

In its letter sent to the DICT, the UFCC urged the government body to investigate the operations of J&T Express and its franchise partners that continue to conduct business without franchise permits, specifically the ones located in Manila, Quezon City, and Caloocan.

“Without the proper legal accreditation, consumers are at the mercy of these businesses. They have no recourse if their packages are mishandled and identifying the perpetrators will be difficult because of the lack of publicly accessible documents,” Dela Cruz said.

Last year, President Duterte called for an investigation of J&T Express by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG). The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) was also called to inspect the delivery firm’s finances.

The inquiry was undertaken because of various charges including mishandling of parcels resulting in damaged goods, contrabands found in J&T Express property, missing deliveries, overcharging clients with excessive delivery fees, misuse of private customer information, and unfair work policies.

In 2020, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency confiscated around 12 kilos or P81.6 million worth of suspected methamphetamines, a prohibited drug, in a warehouse owned by J&T Express.

“Up to now we have been gathering a lot of complaints. Lalo nga sumama ang kanilang operations eh. Sila-sila rin mismo sa organisasyon nila naglolokohan,” asked Dela Cruz. “Talagang nakakatakot ito. In this particular instance, number one na illegal practitioner ang J&T.”

Last June, the workers’ union United Rank and File Employees of J&T Express (URFE) declared a strike calling for better labor conditions and payment of overtime pay and health benefits, among others. They cited unpaid overtime and diminution of allowances for long trips and when they get stranded during delivery, as well as forced labor.

Dapat nilang bayaran pa rin ang workers. And we will help them. Kawawa nga sila, sila nga ang frontliners pero they’re not given their due,” said Dela Cruz.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros had previously urged the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to issue guidelines addressing unethical terms of employment and labor standards that will better protect and promote the welfare of delivery riders.

By 2025, parcels will equal mail in volume. Improving the logistics and supply chain efforts will fast-track the country’s digitization efforts towards a digital economy, the consumer group said.

“We focused on J&T because of their widespread and grave illegal acts. The complaints centered on the malpractices and fraud that have been imposed on their consumers, as well as the violation of labor laws they inflicted on their own work force,” said Dela Cruz.

“That is why we have asked DICT to revoke their licenses – not just of J&T but their franchise partners as well. They have been functioning in defiance of various laws. We need to have a disciplined logistics industry and ensure an environment of responsible and proper practices so our country can progress,” added Dela Cruz.

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