Complaints by consumers against transactions made online fell sharply by 25% last year compared to 2020, as the government began to ease mobility restrictions, online platform systems became more efficient and the best consumer understanding of e-commerce.
Trade and Industry Under Secretary Ruth Castelo said at the press conference marking the observance of World Consumer Day on Tuesday, March 15, where the DTI announced the release of the Joint Administrative Order (JAO) No. 2022-01, or guidelines reiterating laws and regulations applicable to online businesses and consumers.
According to Castelo, the DTI received 12,000 complaints in 2021 compared to 16,000 in 2020, which is 4,000 less than in 2020.
Castelo explained that the sharp drop in complaints could be attributed to the fact that online platforms and their merchants had difficulty delivering consumer orders during the first year of the pandemic due to the confinements which hampered the mobility of their staff.
She noted that online platforms and merchants not only sell non-essentials, but also essentials and groceries. When restrictions were eased in 2021, they already had more people to run their operations.
Another reason for the decline, she said, is that consumers have already learned their lesson and adapted to shopping online without too much trouble. Additionally, online platforms have also become more efficient in their systems, allowing them to operate more efficiently.
Of this figure, the DTI approved 3,950 cases with other relevant agencies, resolved 807 cases, issued a certificate for the filing of charges to 116 and withdrew 71. The three main online platforms with the
Most of the complaints were about Lazada, Shopee, and Zalora, as these are also the biggest platforms.
For the first two months of this year, Castelo said it received 2,059 consumer complaints. When asked if they expected to continue the decline in online transactions, Castelo expressed hope that complaints could decrease further. But she also noted that if the average of 1,000 complaints per month is maintained for the rest of the year, the number of complaints would total 12,000 by the end of the year.
Under the JAO, which will be released on Tuesday, March 15, government agencies are to develop a system to exchange intelligence/information on prohibited and restricted items monitored online, including automatic sharing of information with the appropriate regulation on possible violations detected/discovered. This may include sharing and accessing a product/item database with sufficient information, keywords, content, for this purpose.
DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez said, “Institutionalizing this sharing of information between government agencies is one of the ways we can make compliance monitoring by online sellers more effective. The DTI e-commerce division will be responsible for coordinating both market platforms and government agencies in setting up this mechanism.
Online businesses are covered by the Consumer Law of the Philippines, the Philippine Standards Act which provides liability for defective products, or the Intellectual Property Code for counterfeit and pirated products. Online sellers must comply with product and service warranties, labeling requirements, including placement of price tags.
The Department warns that the practice of providing prices through private (or direct) messages to consumers/buyers is considered a violation of the Price Tag Act. Online merchants must present the corresponding permit or license number for regulated items, as prescribed by the relevant regulatory bodies. Online businesses are not allowed to produce, import, distribute, market, sell or transport goods prohibited by law.
Consumers and sellers are reminded that fines and penalties under existing laws applicable to physical transactions also apply to online transactions.
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