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Bill protecting online customers okayed

The House of Representatives’ Committee on Trade and Industry has approved a bill creating the Electronic Commerce Bureau to protect online consumers and merchants.

“This bill seeks to regulate all business-to-business and business-to-consumer commercial transactions conducted over the internet, including those related to internet retail, online travel, online media, ride hailing services, and digital financial services,” Valenzuela Rep. Wes Gatchalian, the panel chairman, said.

The committee-approved measure will not cover consumer-to-consumer transactions, or those considered petty, one-off, or occasional low value transactions.

The proposed law also makes online platforms, including Lazada, Shopee, and Zalora,  solidarily liable with their own merchants if these platforms fail to exercise ordinary diligence; know or should have known that items in their platform do not comply with law, and they fail to take necessary measures; fail to publish the details of their merchants as required under the bill; or if they permit an online merchant, not duly registered with the appropriate regulatory agencies, to offer its goods and services for sale through their platform.

Gatchalian’s bill also makes it illegal to cancel orders for food and/or grocery items made via a ride-hailing service when the said items have already been paid by or is already in the possession of the ride hailing service partner or in transit to the consumer. It will also be illegal to “unreasonably shame, demean, embarrass, or humiliate ride hailing service partners.”

A consumer, however, may cancel an order if the delivery of ordered food or grocery items was or will be delayed for at least an hour from the expected time of arrival due to the fault or negligence of the ride hailing service partner.

Meanwhile, Gatchalian added that the proposed eCommerce Bureau “will only have authority over those activities which are currently not regulated but are nevertheless conducted over the internet.”

“Any regulation of the eCommerce Bureau that may affect regulated industries shall only be ancillary to the government agency or instrumentality exercising primary jurisdiction over that specific activity,” he said.

Gatchalian added the eCommerce Bureau will be the “central authority” that consumers and merchants may approach and shall lead the development of an online dispute resolution platform which shall be the single point of entry for consumers and online merchants seeking out-of-court resolution of disputes.

To encourage businesses to go online and for foreign organizations to choose to register with the eCommerce Bureau, the bill will also require the (Department of Trade and Industry) DTI to lead the establishment of an industry-led eCommerce Trustmark, Gatchalian said.

“This Trustmark will represent safety and security in internet transactions which will ultimately build consumer confidence and lead to a robust growth of the internet economy. As consumers, you will want to deal with entities which have been given this seal of approval. As a merchant, you would want to have this Trustmark on your website so that your consumers can transact with peace of mind,” he said.

The substitute bill to Gatchalian’s House Bill No. 6122 approved by the committee was revised by a technical working group based on the recommendation of its stakeholders and other government agencies especially its lead agency, the DTI.

Topics: House of Representatives , Electronic Commerce Bureau , Wes Gatchalian
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