House panel approves bill creating e-commerce bureau

By Filane Mikee Cervantes

July 20, 2020, 2:39 pm

<p>Valenzuela Rep. Wes Gatchalian <em>(File photo)</em></p>

Valenzuela Rep. Wes Gatchalian (File photo)

MANILA – The House Committee on Trade and Industry on Monday approved a bill creating an electronic commerce (e-commerce) bureau to protect consumers and merchants engaged in internet transactions.

Valenzuela Rep. Wes Gatchalian, panel chair, said the proposed Internet Transactions Act 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 services, digital media providers, ride hailing services and digital financial services.

Gatchalian said the e-commerce bureau will be the “central authority” tasked to regulate online trade and shall act as a virtual one stop shop for consumer complaints on internet transactions.

He said the proposed 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 added.

According to Gatchalian, the bill will not cover consumer-to-consumer transactions, or those considered petty, one-off, or occasional low value transactions.

Under the bill, online e-commerce platforms such as Lazada, Shopee and Zalora shall share solidary liability with their own merchants if these platforms fail to exercise extraordinary diligence to prevent any loss or damage to the consumer; fail to take necessary measures against products sold on their platforms that do not comply with law; or fail to publish the details of their merchants, among others.

The proposed law makes it illegal to cancel orders for food and/or grocery items made via ride hailing services 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 delayed for at least an hour from the expected time of arrival due to the fault or negligence of the ride-hailing service partner.

To encourage businesses to go online and for foreign organizations to choose to register with the e-commerce bureau, the Department of Trade and Industry will be required to lead the establishment of an industry-led eCommerce Trustmark.

“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. (PNA)