The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) strengthens its monitoring activities in bookstores and other outlets to ensure only affordable, quality, and safe school supplies are being sold to consumers.

The DTI’s Fair Trade Enforcement Bureau (FTEB) last 31 May 2017 led the special joint monitoring activities for school supplies with the Department of Health’s Food and Drug Administration (DOH-FDA) and Local Government Unit – Manila (LGU) in several stores in Divisoria and Morayta.

The monitoring teams checked the prices, quality, and safety of the school items sold in the said stores.

DTI-FTEB Officer-in-Charge Ferdinand L. Manfoste reported that all five (5) stores were found complying with the suggested retail prices (SRPs) set in this year’s “Gabay sa Pamimili ng School Supplies.”
But three (3) out of five (5) stores inspected were issued with the DTI’s Notice of Violation (NOV) for their failure to meet the provisions of labeling and deceptive sales acts or practices stated under the Consumer Act or Republic Act 7394.

According to Article 50 of the Consumer Act, “an act or practice shall be deemed deceptive whenever the producer, manufacturer, supplier or seller, through concealment, false representation of fraudulent manipulation, induces a consumer to enter into a sale or lease transaction of any consumer product or service.” Meanwhile, Article 76 of the said Act adds that “it shall be unlawful for any person, either as principal or agent engaged in the labeling or packaging of any consumer products to display or sell consumer products whose label does not conform to the rules and regulations of RA 7394.”
The monitoring team then seized a total of 1,550 notebooks — 1,013 of which were from a bookstore in Morayta and 537 were from two (2) bookstores in Divisoria. This was after they found out that the notebooks did not actually consist of 80 leaves, but rather 76 to 78 leaves.

The retailers insisted that the inadequacy of the number of leaves of the notebooks they sell is not their fault. FTEB Officer-in-Charge Manfoste, though, replied that the retailers have liabilities, too.

“Both the manufacturers and retailers are equally liable for the violation against labeling and deceptive sales under the Consumer Act. As responsible entrepreneurs, they should also ensure that the products they sell do follow or meet what is set by the law,” he affirmed.

Further, the DOH-FDA with the use of an X-Ray fluorescence spectrometer, initially found two (2) stores selling a brand of color pencil and watercolor with high mercury content.

A brand of color pencil recorded 484 parts per million (ppm) of mercury content, while a brand of watercolor showed 168 ppm. The mercury content of the two school items exceeded the 60 ppm tolerable limit and DOH-FDA will subject the products to further confirmatory tests.

Given this, the DTI reminds consumers to be cautious with the school supplies they buy, as they might fall off as victims of toxic or hazardous substances.

DTI’s Consumer Protection Group Undersecretary Atty. Teodoro C. Pascua stresses, “Our consumers have the right to safety, and so, we advise them to take the time to check the labels of school supplies, particularly the “Non-Toxic” label for crayons before making a purchase”.

Undersecretary Pascua likewise emphasized that safety should not be compromised just because of the consumers’ desire to stretch their budget.

He also cited the minimum labeling requirements that school supplies should have, such as the name and address of the manufacturer, trade or brand name, type or size of the product, country of manufacture, quantity, toxicity warning, and instruction for use.

Other markings include the number of leaves, class of paper (bond, book, econobond), hardness symbol (1, 2, 3), the word ‘non-toxic’, and tip classification (fine, medium).
DTI encourages the consumers to make use of e-Presyo for the latest Price Guide for school supplies. Visit the e-Presyo page or download the app from Play Store using any Android device and App Store for IOS.

Consumers can report or file complaints on the price and quality of school supplies to the nearest DTI office in their area. They may also call DTI Direct 751.3330 or text DTI Mobile 0917.834.3330.