By Ellicia del Mundo and Mary Umlas
Deceptive and unfair online transactions rose by more than 500 percent during the pandemic as more Filipinos turned to e-commerce amid the lockdowns, the Department of Trade and Industry said.
A total of 15,967 complaints for online transactions were logged by DTI last year, 549.86 percent higher than the 2019 record of 2,457 complaints.
“When people are no longer allowed to go out, they will have to depend on online platforms not just to work but also to get their basic needs and the services that are required for them to do their jobs as well as go on with their lives,” said DTI Assistant Secretary for Consumer Protection Group Ann Cabochan.
She said online transactions done through social media are also posing problems for Filipino consumers.
“I think the bigger problem really this time is not e-commerce platforms like Shopee or Lazada. It is those sellers that are selling on Facebook marketplace. If you buy there, and they receive your money and suddenly they disappear, we have no way of tracing that,” Cabochan said.
“When you shop with platforms – Shopee, Lazada, Zalora – DTI knows who to run after when there is a complaint. When a complaint is filed before the Fair Trade Enforcement Bureau, the FTEB will now call the platform, whether Shoppe or Lazada. That is why I would always say that it is better to deal with online platforms that are registered because we have a way of running after them,” she added.
From January 1 to May 10 this year, some 5,067 online transaction complaints have already been registered, of which 2,448 fall under the category of deceptive, unfair, and unconscionable acts and practices.
DTI is pushing for the passage of the Internet Transaction Act to provide further protection to consumers, Cabochon said, adding that when the Consumer Act was passed, there were no online transactions yet.
“If that [Internet Transaction Act] becomes a law, all these online sellers will be forced to register before they can sell. For now, we don’t have that kind of requirement. So if we have the Internet Transactions Act, they will have to register before they can sell,” she added.