ASC Chairman Mr. Ike S. Canoy, who unfortunately, as been mentioned has not been able to join us tonight; Ms. Golda A. Roldan, officers and members of the Ad Standards Council; colleagues in government; distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen—good evening. Isang mapagpala’t mapagpalayang gabi sa inyong lahat.

Congratulations to everyone in the Ad Standards Council (ASC) as you celebrate your 15th anniversary.

I’m honored to stand before you today as your keynote speaker, I’m equally honored to have inducted the 2023 ASC Officers and Board of Directors. Your vision, talent, and network will be very helpful in working hand-in-hand with the government in serving under the new normal. We at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) look forward to more collaborations with you in furthering our shared advocacies for the welfare of all consumers.

This evening, I want to share some thoughts on “Consumer Protection in the New Normal” as we are experiencing the post-pandemic world is largely digital and I’m deeply aware of the significant partnership in the digital age.

Of the Department’s three inter-related pillars of trabaho, negosyo, and konsyumer, the last is the most inclusive and challenging. Regardless of age, gender, religion, or probinsya, everyone is a consumer. Three years after COVID-19 pandemic emerged, our world adapted the new normal. Governments, schools, businesses, and households have embraced to digital platforms, accelerating digital transformation across various sectors.

This shift, has given rise into a surge of remote work: blended learning, online shopping and medical consultation, and yes, “I heard,” even e-dating.

Many of our regular and every day activities caused the boom in these arrangements. Para sa mga naka-wfh, usong-uso na ang office attire, naka-coat or naka barong pero naka short. Kung minsan naman pajama lang.

The pandemic, particularly during the lockdown periods, shifted many economic activities from real life to virtual. Consumers have become more familiar with different online shopping platforms. Terms such as “add to cart” and “ipa-Grab mo,” as well as online transaction payments through Gcash and Maya have become commonplace for many Filipinos. Doesn’t matter which class you belong to, they are all familiar with these terms. Sa new normal, nakatira tayo sa Internet. With our inevitable global interconnectedness and borderless economy, we can be everywhere all at once.

The pandemic showed us the potential and significance of e-commerce as an economic recovery catalyst. Statista, the online platform on market and consumer data, predicts e- commerce sales to grow fastest in Asia and the Americas. And it puts he Philippines at the forefront, with online sales increasing by more than 25%.

Unfortunately, as with most things, digital method cuts both ways. Globally, from 2019 to 2022, the 80% increase in digital transactions resulted in 80% growth in suspected digital fraud attempts. This is according to a study by global information and insights firm TransUnion.

TransUnion says stolen identifiers from data breaches are being weaponized to commit increasingly sophisticated fraud, as in getting a loan. Fraudsters are using every available digital channel to access consumer accounts—via text, phone call, email, or messaging apps.

In the Philippines, online scams have increased six-fold from almost 2,500 (2,457) cases reported in 2021 to nearly 15,000 (14,869) complaints from January to October of 2020, including the seven months we were under community quarantine

According to Statista, the top 3 most frequent fraud schemes targeting consumers in the Philippines as of 1st Quarter of 2022 are: phishing (or getting consumers to reveal their passwords, credit-card numbers, and other personal information, 42%),

money gift card (or using a stolen card number to make an online purchase, then sending it back for a refund and asking for the funds to be put on a gift card, 38%), and third-party seller scams on legitimate online retail websites (30%). Other fraud schemes are fundraising (25%), identity theft (23%), account takeover (22%), stolen credit card or fraudulent charges (11%), and ransomware (or demanding ransom after introducing a malicious software that prevents consumers from accessing their account, 8%).

Expectedly, our Consumer Protection Group monitored a surge of over 57,000 consumer complaints during the first year of the pandemic in 2020 from just over 10,000 in 2019.

In 2022, close to half (44% or 12,200) of the almost 28,000 (27,947) complaints that our Fair Trade Enforcement Bureau (FTEB) received involved online transactions. The most common complaints among the 12,200 were: liability for product and service imperfection. ‘Yung punit na damit, for example: over 2,500; deceptive, unfair, or unconscionable sales act or practices, like not receiving any item at all even after payment: almost 2,200; and misleading advertisement and fraudulent sales promotion practices, as in no discount during an advertised sales promo: 450.

Of the 12,170 complaints, almost 2,500 were resolved, a little of 9,900 were endorsed to the appropriate agencies, and the rest were either withdrawn or issued Certificates to File.

Together with the Departments of Health and Agriculture, our programs and actions are based on our mandate of looking after the safety and welfare of consumers.

More than its regulatory and penalizing provisions, the Consumer Act of 1992 seeks to create a positive consumer environment where our rights to safe products and services, fair transactions, and redress are fully exercised.

This is where advertising comes in, as it is also a vehicle of culture, creating public mood. Advertising can help create and foster that safe and fair consumer environment. ASC colleagues, your industry is the face of the Philippines to the world through the content you help create.

At the celebration of World Consumer Rights Day last March 15, ASC and the Out-of- Home Advertising Association of the Philippines joined DTI in launching our Consumer Care Advocacy Initiative (CCAI) Project.

In this project, organizations providing land, air, and water transportation to the general public allowed the use of their available platforms for consumer education.

My heartfelt gratitude goes to ASC for partnering with DTI in this endeavor. I hope more of your members will allow the use of your media-sharing platforms for DTI to disseminate its consumer information materials.

I hope that educating more consumers on their rights and responsibilities will increase consumer consciousness and surpass the current awareness level of 82%.

ASC has also previously collaborated with DTI against unlawful advertising contained in Chapter VI of the Consumer Act of 1992. Unlawful advertising means disseminating false, deceptive, or misleading information via Philippine mail or mass media in print, radio, television, and now the Internet.

At the height of the pandemic in 2021, we renewed this partnership against these harmful forms of advertising through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Under this MOU, the Council continues to protect consumers by pre- and post-screening ad material content for compliance with the law and the Council’s own Code of Standards and Ethics.

We are grateful to ASC for doing this. The impact was immediately felt, as we noted a 25% drop in the number of complaints on misleading advertisements and fraudulent sales promotion practices nationwide. The number of complaints fell from 1,166 in 2021 to 873 in 2022.

Hence, in this new normal, we request the ASC for three things

Number 1: Include online advertisements in the pre- and post-screening of advertising materials

Number 2: We also ask the advertising gurus of the Council to help push for the enactment of the Internet Transactions Act (ITA).

The bill seeks to strengthen trust in e-commerce and online transactions. At the heart of this highly anticipated legislative measure are mechanisms such as the Online Business Registry (OBR) and the eCommerce Philippine Trustmark.

To fast-track the adoption of Trustmark while the bill is pending in Congress, our Digital Philippines E- Commerce Division is drafting a Department Administrative Order (DAO) with guidelines to establish the e-commerce Trustmark.

Given the number of fraud online, it doesn’t come as a surprise that consumers base their purchasing decisions on how much they trust the e-commerce system in general and the online merchant in particular,

Trust, or more precisely lack of trust, is still the biggest barrier to the industry’s realizing the full potential of e-commerce.

That’s why we have these safeguards, which we adopted from the ASEAN Committee on Consumer Protection; they will benefit merchants and consumers who transact online.

Online platforms and sellers that uphold the rights of consumers and practice responsible business will get this badge of trust.

I know that your boundless creativity will find a way to encourage e-commerce players to secure the “Trustmark.”

And Number 3: In support of Number 2 is perhaps discounts or other concessions for ads of players with Trustmark. Advertising experts like you, know that bottom line-related boosters are a surefire way to get support.

In closing, I would like to emphasize that the government and private sector must both be proactive and responsive to the changing circumstances of this digitalized world. Together, let us ensure consumer protection in the new normal. I enjoin your industry to collaborate actively with us to push Philippine advertising to new heights, to compete with the best in the world. Tell us how we can help you to achieve your dreams, because your success is also our country’s success. Together, let us build a resilient and sustainable economy by prioritizing consumer safety.

Once again, happy 15th anniversary, and congratulations to all the newly appointed officials.

Salamat po at mabuhay tayong lahat! ♦

Date of release: 01 April 2023