Solon flags low number of resolved online transaction cases

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 10) — As more people resort to digital transactions amid the pandemic, complaints from online shoppers have also been on the rise. However, only a few of these cases have been resolved so far, a lawmaker said.

"Dito pa lang sa datos ng DTI, makikita po natin na napakababa po ang pag-resolve po ng cases. Out of the 14,869 (cases), 1,543 lang po ang na-resolve," Rep. Wes Gatchalian, chairman of the House Committee on Trade and Industry, told CNN Philippines' News.PH.

[Translation: By just looking at data from the DTI (Department of Trade and Industry), we can already see how small the figure is for resolved cases. Out of the 14,869 cases, only 1,543 have been resolved.]

Of the 14,869 complaints filed with the DTI from January to October this year, over 8,000 cases have been endorsed to different agencies, he added.

The number of complaints grew by over 500 percent compared to 2019, wherein the DTI received more than 2,400 complaints from online shoppers, noted Gatchalian. Most grievances involve violations of the Price Act, defective products and deceptive, unfair selling practices, he added.

"Dahil po sa kakulangan po natin ng batas, wala pong mapuntahan ang ating consumers at kadalasan ay hinahayaan po na lang nila dahil po ayaw na nilang maperwisyo to file the necessary requirements et cetera to proceed to case versus these online platforms," the lawmaker remarked.

[Translation: Because of the lack of a law (on online transactions), consumers have nowhere to go and instead opt not to act on their complaints anymore. They don't want to deal with the hassle of filing the necessary requirements et cetera to proceed to case versus these online platforms.]

Gatchalian authored House Bill No. 6122 or the Online Transactions Act, which seeks the creation of an "e-commerce bureau" under the DTI. A "one stop shop" for all complaints related to digital transactions, it shall serve as an arbitrary body between buyers and sellers, he explained.

The proposed bureau will also provide online merchants a so-called trust mark, which will be given to sellers who can fulfill requirements similar to the ones brick and mortar stores have to satisfy, said Gatchalian. He said this will give buyers peace of mind, therefore increasing sales.

The government has encouraged the public to utilize digital transactions to balance minimizing physical contact and keeping struggling businesses and workers afloat amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

With this, a bill seeking to tax online service providers has drawn flak from netizens, noting the impropriety of imposing more taxes during an ongoing health crisis. However, proponent Rep. Joey Salceda, who also chairs the House Committee on Ways and Means, has clarified that his proposal wants to go after big companies like Google, Facebook, Lazada and Netflix.