Protection for online consumers and merchants sought

January 7, 2014 11:23 am 

MANILA, Jan. 7 — A lawmaker has filed a bill protecting the rights of consumers and merchants of online commerce by laying down the rules and regulations of the online industry for the sake of the future internet users.

Rep. Wes Gatchalian (Party-list, Alay Buhay) filed House Bill 2535 as he noted the need to address concerns on state regulations on the industry considering the country is still in an infant stage in the online commerce and very vulnerable to monetary scams.

“The bill is certainly not a perfect one, other areas and concerns might not have been addressed but we cannot afford not to bring order to our lives and this bill is an effort to craft a law that will foster a smooth functioning social order on online commerce and trading,” Gatchalian said.

Gatchalian noted that the rise of digital technology saw the emergence of mobile networks and the rapid advancement in computer technologies.

According to the lawmaker, the Internet has brought with it many forms of businesses and new forms of marketing such as the e-commerce and the online shopping.

Gatchalian said in the Philippines, the online shopping is on its road to a big leap as the research company Nielsen estimated that as of now, the country has at least 33.6 million Internet users and is still growing.

“Our online shopping portal is also on the rise. We have ayosdito.com, sulit.com, philshopping.com, lazada.com, pinoytiangge.com, ebay-ph.com and many others that even have outdated the classified ads and the buy and sell, and it won’t take long, many will be discovering the convenience of online shopping similar to first world countries where in it is already a million dollar industry,” Gatchalian said.

“Imagine shopping in the comfort of your home, free from the metropolitan traffic, dangers of handling cash, where the product will be delivered right at your doorstep, and enjoying shopping 24 hours/7 days a week,” he added.

Gatchalian said no doubt, there are notable success stories on online commerce, but this hype has also its share of weaknesses and limitations and it is the bill’s purpose to fill in the gap.

He said the measure seeks to address concerns on payment options and secrecy of data obtained from the consumers and more transparency from traders.

Gatchalian added that the bill also aims to eliminate hidden transaction costs, delivery problems, cancellation of orders, refunds against cancellation and payment issues.

Under the measure to be known as “Consumers and Merchants Online Protection Act of the Philippines,” before the consumer is bound by an online contract, or any corresponding offer, the service provider shall provide the consumer with information on the description of the goods or services being offered; the goods or products conform to product standards; the identity of the third party seller, service provider, geographical address to which the consumer may address any complaints and the total price of the goods or services inclusive of taxes in a clear and comprehensible manner.

The service provider shall also provide the consumer with a copy of a signed contract or the confirmation of the contract through an electronic document as provided under the Electronic Commerce Act within a reasonable time.

Furthermore, the service provider shall seek the express consent of the consumer before it charges or attempt to charge any consumer’s credit card, debit card, bank account or other financial account for any goods or services sold in a transaction online through the Internet.

The bill also provides the consumer the right to cancel a payment where fraudulent methods have been made. It provides prohibition on data-pass used to facilitate certain deceptive internet sales transactions and negative option marketing.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is mandated to promulgate the rules and regulation to implement the provisions of this Act.

Violators shall be penalized with 2 years imprisonment and a fine of P20,000 or both.(PNA)

FFC/PR/JSD

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