With the increase in inquiries and concerns about online transactions, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) reminds businesses and online sellers that consumer protection laws apply to brick-and-mortar and online stores. 

As the primary government agency responsible for consumer protection, the DTI works tirelessly to address consumer concerns and provide timely resolutions to the public. In 2022, DTI, along with other agencies,  issued Joint Administrative Order (JAO) No. 22-01 on “Guidelines for Online Businesses Reiterating the Laws and Regulations Applicable to Online Businesses and Consumers” which aims to increase public Trust in e-Commerce and boost consumer confidence in shifting to online shopping. 

Through this JAO, online businesses were reminded to comply with rules and regulations on warranties, labeling, and other requirements under existing laws including desisting from selling prohibited items as well as regulated items without the proper approval from concerned regulatory agencies. 

In 2022, FTEB received a total of 27,947 complaints, of which 44% or 12,170 pertains to online transactions. Of the 12,170 complaints, 2,484 were resolved, 9,093 were referred to the appropriate agencies, 394 were withdrawn, and the remaining 199 complainants were issued Certificates to File Action. The DTI also received complaints about online scams, such as using fake identities to appear as legitimate merchants, unregistered sales promotions, malicious online shopping sites, and pyramiding.

In addressing these, the DTI coordinated with the Philippine National Police (PNP), the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and other concerned agencies to combat their proliferation. The DTI also continued educating consumers on how to avoid scams.

The DTI also pushed for the passage of the Internet Transactions Act (ITA) which aims to build trust between online sellers and consumers. The ITA will place mechanisms to safeguard merchants and consumers as they transact online such as the Online Business Registry (OBR) and the eCommerce Philippine Trustmark. The Trustmark will be given to merchants that uphold the rights of consumers and practice responsible business.

Under the ITA, persons involved in e-Commerce who purposely utilize the Philippine market will be considered to be conducting business within the country. Consequently, they will need to adhere to all applicable laws and regulations in the Philippines.

The bill also arms the DTI Secretary with the power to issue an order directing that a website, webpage, online application, social media account, or other similar platform, be taken down or made inaccessible in the Philippines for a maximum of thirty (30) days found in violation of the law.  

“We need the ITA law passed. We hope its enactment can be fast tracked”, said DTI Consumer Protection Group Undersecretary, Ruth B. Castelo.  

In the meantime, the DTI urges the public to be cautious, especially when engaging in online transactions. “Before making a purchase, you should select merchants carefully and confirm the online seller’s physical address and phone number. This will help DTI in clamping down on scammers in the online platform. Consumers must also review the return policy of the store”, Atty. Ruth B. Castelo added.

Further, Undersecretary Castelo said that “We should also check the reviews posted by other buyers and keep a record of our transactions.”

Everyone is encouraged to follow DTI’s Consumer Care official social media accounts for more information. For consumer-related concerns and queries, send an email to ConsumerCare@dti.gov.ph or call the One-DTI (1-384) Hotline. *

Date of release: 21 June 2023