Online sellers warned on using statements violating Consumer Act: DTI 11

How much?

PM sent.

Beware. This familiar conversation between online sellers and would-be buyers runs smack against the law.

Online sellers communicating prices of merchandise sold online with the customary confidential line “PM sent” to customers are violating the Consumer Act of the Philippines, the regional office of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI 11) said on Monday.

PM, in social media lingo, means private message which one person sends to another in a private conversation. This will conceal the content of the message from other persons online. It will also prevent authorities from monitoring the price of the goods or services sold online.

DTI 11 reminded online sellers the joint DTI-Department of Health (DOH)-Department of Agriculture (DA) Administrative Order (JAO) No. 1 Series of 2008, which provide the “rules and regulations for consumer protection in a transaction covered by the Consumer Act of the Philippines (RA 7394) through electronic means under the E-Commerce Act (RA 8792)” which states that the price tag, as well as the other terms of the transaction such as the delivery fees, packaging fees must be indicated. 

Lawyer Dianne Bay Grado, attorney III for Consumer Protection Division of the Department of Trade Industry 11 (DTI 11), said in a phone interview that the agency is intensifying the campaign as the agency has received complaints from consumers on why online sellers are not disclosing their prices online. 

Based on Section 5 No 3 of JAO on the Information About Consumer Transaction states that retailers, sellers, distributors, suppliers or manufacturers engaged in electronic commerce with consumers shall provide sufficient, clear, accurate, easily accessible information about the terms, conditions and costs of the consumer transaction to enable consumers to make an informed decision.

The order stipulates that the manner of providing this information shall give consumers an adequate opportunity to review the terms, conditions and costs before entering into the consumer transaction and allow the consumers to retain a copy of the information.

It also states that retailers, sellers, distributors, suppliers or manufacturers shall make available to consumers a clear and complete text of the relevant terms and conditions of the consumer transaction. The consumers should be able to access and retain a record of the information by printing or electronic record.

Likewise, the information shall include the price tag of the product or service and the applicable currency. However, applicable costs not included in the price tag such as delivery, postage, handling, insurance, shipping charges, taxes, and specific reference to any other charges, customs fees and other fees that may be imposed on or collected from consumers shall be so stated in the information. The information shall include notice of any optional ongoing costs, fees and charges and methods of notification for changes to those costs, fees and charges.

The JAO also provides that any person aggrieved by any transactions arising from the purchase of goods and services from a business establishment for violations/s of the Consumer Act transacted be using electronic data messages or electronic documents may file such complaint to the concerned implementing agencies.