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Rep. Duterte to push for E-Commerce Bureau

Thursday, October 27, 2022


Rep. Duterte to push for E-Commerce Bureau

DAVAO CITY First Congressional District Representative Paolo Duterte is pushing for the approval of a measure that would establish an E-Commerce Bureau in the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to safeguard online transactions and help promote a robust internet-based economy in the country.

In a press release, Duterte said he sought the swift approval of the e-commerce bill with appropriate powers and functions as this measure is provided under his proposed Internet Transactions Act under House Bill (HB) 3050 and other similar legislative proposals will complement the recently enacted law that mandates the registration of Subscriber Identity Modules (SIMs).

Duterte said that while both the SIM Registration Law and the proposed Internet Transactions Act aim to protect consumers from fraud, the latter provides for additional protection to e-commerce consumers and merchants alike.

He said the bill also promotes trust and accountability in the country’s e-commerce market with the goal of further accelerating the growth of this sector and encouraging micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to take advantage of digital innovations to expand their businesses.

“In order to protect the merchant and the consumer, an effective regulation of commercial activities through the internet or electronic means must be established,” Duterte said in his bill’s explanatory note.

“This is to ensure that consumer rights and data privacy are protected, innovation is encouraged, fair advertising practices and competition are promoted, online transactions are secured, intellectual property rights are respected and product standards and safety are observed,” Duterte added.

Under HB 3050, the e-commerce division currently set up in the DTI will be abolished and replaced by an E-Commerce Bureau.

The E-Commerce Bureau is authorized, among others, to mandate e-commerce entities to register in the DTI’s Online Business Registry; identify regulatory gaps affecting the e-commerce industry and recommend appropriate executive or legislative measures to foster this sector’s growth; and act as a virtual one-stop shop tasked to receive, address and facilitate the speedy resolution of consumer complaints on unresolved internet transactions.

Duterte noted that as a result of the pandemic, online retail and other e-commerce services are slowly becoming the norm in the day-to-day lives of many Filipinos, who have found conducting contactless transactions easy and convenient.

The 2021 e-Conomy report for Southeast Asia by Google and Temasek found the Philippines the fastest-growing e-commerce market in the region. The country has seen 12 million new digital consumers since the start of the pandemic up to the first half of 2021, of which 63% are from non-metro areas and 99% say that they intend to continue using digital services going forward, the study said.

According to the study, the gross merchandise value (GMV) of the Philippines’ internet economy is expected to reach $17 billion in 2021, or a 93% year-on-year surge, and up to $40 billion in 2025.

Duterte said these projections as well as the study’s findings that the Philippines still has the lowest digital consumer penetration in the region at only 68% of internet users, underscore the need for Congress to pass a law to both safeguard and promote internet transactions.

Establishing the DTI’s E-Commerce Bureau and according it with the appropriate powers and responsibilities will help “build trust between online merchants and consumers via secure and reliable e-commerce platforms where goods and services are transacted with transparency and utmost efficiency,” Duterte said.

Duterte said transparency and efficiency, in turn, will encourage the creation of new products and services, and even business models and processes.

Aside from acting on consumer complaints, the E-Commerce Bureau under Duterte’s measure is also empowered to take down, either temporarily or permanently, any product listing, webpage, business page, application, social media post, profile, website or any other online platform found violating the bill’s provisions or the Consumer Act of the Philippines.

The bill authorizes the E-Commerce Bureau to issue an advisory that no entity shall process payments made to any violating entity to ensure that the latter shall be rendered commercially inoperative.

HB 3050 also specifies the obligations and rights of digital platforms, online merchants, and consumers; determines the penalties for violating such rights and obligations, and seeks the development of an E-Commerce Philippine Trustmark to provide assurance and security in transactions over the internet.

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