Some 73,000 online businesses registered during the COVID-19 pandemic, DTI says

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 3) — The Department of Trade and Industry says over 73,000 online businesses have registered with the agency during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez told a Senate committee hearing Thursday on the proposed Internet Transactions Act (Senate Bill No. 1591) that 73,276 businesses registered from March 16 to August 31.

This is a sharp rise from only 1,753 online businesses who listed up prior to the implementation of quarantine restrictions in mid-March.

There are now 75,029 registered online businesses, the DTI chief said.

Moreover, Lopez said they also recorded a significant increase in consumer complaints related to online commerce transactions.

He noted that from 2,457 in 2019, they have received 12,630 complaints as of end-August this year. The highest recorded was 8,000, from April to May, or when the strict enhanced community quarantine was implemented in many parts of Luzon, including Metro Manila.

“Six months into the pandemic, we see a new normal. Now our goal, building trust between online merchants and online consumers, has created a profound significance since e-commerce adoption has indeed accelerated over the past six months,” he said.

With the goal of easing the burden on all businesses, Lopez said the department and other government agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Bureau of Internal Revenue are working together to streamline and digitize the process of registering a business.

Currently, there are only parts of the process that are already done online, but they are now working to shift the whole process online, he said.

Optical Media Board chair Anselmo Adriano reported during the hearing a number of issues and threats in digital media. These include selling of counterfeit software and flash drives containing pirated movies and unregulated selling or distribution of storage devices, mastering equipment, storing devices, set top boxes, and books with CD or DVD.

He added that in 2019 they confiscated about 40,000 of USB drives, SD memory cards and internal hard drives from various online sellers and importers valued at over ₱20 million.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, who is the main author of Senate Bill No. 1591, says the measure aims to address, to eliminate "abusive sellers" to protect Filipino consumers.

The bill also creates the e-commerce bureau under the DTI that will be the main agency to handle the implementation and monitoring of the Philippine e-commerce roadmap.

A separate bill in the House of Representatives filed by Valenzuela Rep. Wes Gatchalian has been approved at the committee level and is now awaiting plenary deliberations.