Private sector urged to partner with DTI in creating a safer E-commerce ecosystem

On Friday, 31 March 2023, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Fred Pascual served as the inducting officer of the Ad Standards Council’s (ASC) new set of officers where he emphasized how the digital age has changed the way government implements consumer protection-related initiatives.

“The pandemic, particularly during the lockdown period, 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,” said Secretary Pascual.

The pandemic has paved the way for the rise of e-commerce, through this, businesses were able to operate despite lockdowns and reach wider markets. In fact, this has also caused other businesses and industries to emerge. Online shopping has become and continues to be a trend in the Philippines. However, such boom also has its disadvantages. Consumer protection evolved and has forced the government to intensify its campaign against online scams. As the number of online transactions grew, so did the number of consumer complaints received.

Secretary Pascual further discussed that “The pandemic showed us the potential and significance of e-commerce as an economic recovery catalyst. 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.”

In 2022, the Fair Trade Enforcement Bureau (FTEB) has received a total of 27,947 complaints, of which 44% or 12,170 pertains to online transactions. Among these, 2,484 cases were resolved, 9,093 others were endorsed to appropriate government agencies, 394 were withdrawn, and the remaining 199 complainants were issued Certificates to File Action. The most frequent nature of complaints received were those involving liability for product and service imperfection, deceptive, unfair, or unconscionable sales act or practices, and misleading advertisement and fraudulent sales promotion.

In order to build trust among consumers, the DTI pushed to have a provision on e-commerce trust mark under the proposed Internet Transaction Act. According to the DTI E-Commerce Office, this will provide assurance that the e-commerce site is trustworthy, and any issues encountered will be addressed accordingly. Likewise, it will help MSMEs increase sales, boost their brands, and retain and attract more customers.

Recognizing the important role of advertising in this pursuit, Secretary Pascual also mentioned that “Advertising is a vehicle of culture, creating public mood. It can help create and foster a safe and fair consumer environment. ASC colleagues, your industry is the face of the Philippines to the world through the content you help create. We have established partnership with your council through an MOU that will help protect consumers by pre- and post-screening ad material contents for compliance with the law and the Council’s own Code of Standards and Ethics.”

The Ad Standard Council (ASC) Philippines is an advertising body that oversees screening and content regulation of advertising materials across all medium and platforms. Likewise, it hears and resolves disputes on advertisements which pertain to contents. During the ceremony, Secretary Pascual inducted the 2023 board of directors and officers of ASC alongside the celebration of its 15th founding anniversary.

“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,” Secretary Pascual said in closing.