With the increase in inquiries and concerns about online transactions, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has called for the approval of the Internet Transactions Act (ITA) even as it warned businesses and online sellers that consumer protection laws apply to both brick-and-mortar and online stores.
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 the JAO, 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 Fair Trade Enforcement Bureau (FTEB) of the DTI received a total of 27,947 complaints, of which 44% 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Of the 12,170 complaints, 2,484 were resolved, 9,093 were referred to the appropriate agencies, 394 were withdrawn, and the remaining 199 complainants were issued Certificates to File Action.
The DTI 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.
The agency said it also continued educating consumers on how to avoid scams.
The DTI said it is also pushing for the passage of the ITA, which aims to build trust between online sellers and consumers.
The ITA is expected to 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.
Under the ITA, persons involved in e-commerce who purposely utilize the Philippine market will be considered to be conducting business within the country. Consequently, they will need to adhere to all applicable laws and regulations in the Philippines.
The bill also arms the DTI 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 found in violation of the law.
“We need the ITA law passed. We hope its enactment can be fast tracked,” said DTI consumer protection group head and undersecretary Ruth B. Castelo.
In the meantime, the DTI said it is urging 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.
“We should also check the reviews posted by other buyers and keep a record of our transactions,” she added.