Somebody’s Watching: Government Agencies Join to Protect Online Consumers

On March 4, 2022, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), through its Consumer Protection Group and e-Commerce Division, issued Joint Administrative Order No. 2022-01 entitled “Guidelines for Online Businesses Reiterating the Laws and Regulations Applicable to Online Businesses and Consumers” (Guidelines for Online Businesses), which took effect on April 8, 2022. It was developed through the joint effort of government agencies, including the NPC. The issuance seeks to safeguard consumers from deceitful, unjust, and oppressive online sales acts and practices, while also promoting the rights of consumers.

The Guidelines for Online Businesses covers all online businesses or those engaged in electronic transactions like e-Commerce platforms, online sellers, merchants, e-marketplaces, and retailers.

Online businesses must apprise themselves of the requirements on licensing, production, and implementation provided for in the Guidelines for Online Businesses to ensure they are not fined for non-compliance. The fines imposed depend on the role of the offender and the frequency of the violation. The Guidelines for Online Businesses also enumerate the rights of and redress mechanisms available to aggrieved consumers in electronic transactions.

Key provisions

  • Online businesses’ product listings must contain the total price(s) of the product/service in Philippine pesos. Payment policies, delivery options, returns, refunds, exchange policy, and other charges, if applicable, must also be provided. The practice of providing prices through private (or direct) messages to consumers is considered a violation of the Price Tag Law.
  • E-Commerce platforms and e-marketplaces have the obligation to verify if the goods sold by individual online sellers and merchants in their platforms are regulated, prohibited,original, genuine, licensed, or unexpired.
  • Taking advantage of the consumer’s illiteracy or lack of time or the general conditions of the online environment constitutes unfair sales practice under the Consumer Act of the Philippines. All consumer products sold domestically, whether manufactured locally or imported, shall comply with the minimum labelling requirements for consumer products.
  • Online sellers that sell through social media marketplaces are required to handle all personal data of their consumers with utmost precaution. Online sellers must display on their online platform a Privacy Notice, which shall provide consumers with information regarding the purpose and extent of processing of their personal data in relation to their transactions.

Read the latest SyCipLaw TMT and Data Bulletin here or via this link.