THE chairman of the House committee on trade and industry on Monday asked online platforms to police its ranks, exercise due diligence and address the increasing online scams and fraudulent transactions.
Valenzuela 1st District Rep. Wes Gatchalian, panel chairman, stressed this during his panel inquiry Monday as more Filipinos shift to online transactions due to the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic.
Gatchalian said the responsibility on the illegal activities in online platforms should not be passed on to law enforcement agencies, stressing online platforms should also run after people behind online illegal activities.
“Many people are being defrauded by false and deceiving advertisements, poor product quality and unconscionable sales acts and practices. What is surprising is that a majority of these complaints came out of sales facilitated through these major platforms,” Gatchalian said in his committee inquiry into the growing cases of online fraud, internet scams, fake online bookings, and sale/distribution of illegal drugs online or via social media.
In September 18, 2020, Gatchalian revealed that the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) has confiscated suspected marijuana worth P12,000; 12 ecstacy tablets worth P40,000; one capsule of “Fly High” party drug worth P2,500; and 11 bottles of liquid ecstacy worth P426,000.
Based on the information from the arrested suspects gathered by Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), Gatchalian said some of their drug paraphernalia such as water pipe and glass tooters were brought from the country’s two leading online shopping sites.
The PDEA has already requested the administrators of these shopping sites to take down all listings of drug paraphernalia.
Gatchalian, meanwhile, assured the public that these internet activities have been closely monitored by his committee together with the Philippine National Police (PNP).
Also, the senior lawmaker said the DTI and the PNP continue to receive complaints from online buyers.
“We met with the members of the Anti-Cybercrime Group of the Philippine National Police and the Consumer Protection Group of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and we were informed that they have collectively received over 14,869 complaints as of October 2020. It is very sad that these numbers have been steadily increasing since we started monitoring consumer complaints back in April,” said Gatchalian.
The DTI told the committee that the top three complaints were related to the Price Act on defective products, and deceptive, unfair, or unconscionable sales or practices.
“This is happening precisely because there are currently no regulations that will compel these platforms to ensure the safety of our consumers. Right now, many platforms are self-regulating, but the problem is that when these self-regulations fail, the consumers have nowhere to turn to. Many are oftentimes left hanging, or are put through such a long process that many of them just choose to abandon their claims,” said the veteran lawmaker.
With this, Gatchalian reiterated his call for the immediate passage of his House Bill (HB) No. 6122 seeking to regulate the internet economy.
Under the measure, platforms will be held liable for the misdoings of sellers on their platform if platforms fail to exercise diligence in preventing loss, or if it fails to take necessary measures to prevent products that do not comply with the law from being sold.
The bill has been approved by the House panel and is scheduled to be read for second reading approval in the House of Representatives.