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Solon files bill to stop online scams

A HOUSE leader said on Thursday that the government will soon no longer be overburdened by running after scammers and those selling fake, illegal, and unauthorized products by mandating for the solidary liability of online platforms with their sellers in cases where consumers suffer damages as a result of the transaction.

Valenzuela City Rep. Wes Gatchalian, chairman of the House committee on trade and industry, also hailed the passage on third and final reading of House Bill (HB) 7805, or the Internet Transactions Act (ITA).

“The passage of this bill is very timely as we foresee that online transactions will be the new normal even after the coronavirus pandemic,” Gatchalian said.

“Right now, a lot of platforms accept sellers without conducting background checks. Now, with a new regulation that covers transactions using the internet, online platforms must exercise due diligence in the onboarding of sellers or otherwise these platforms will be held liable with their merchants,” Gatchalian stressed.

The House of Representatives passed the ITA on 3rd reading Tuesday evening with a 232-6-0 vote.

Gatchalian, principal author of the ITA and chair of the House Committee on Trade and Industry, previously said that having a law regulating internet transactions would curb the prevalence of scams and other fraudulent and deceptive practices.

“Based on the data received by my Committee, we saw a 600% increase in the number of complaints filed with the Department of Trade and Industry from January to October of 2020. This illustrates how more scammers and dishonest individuals have turned to the internet to prey on innocent consumers during this pandemic,” he said.

The Valenzuela City lawmaker further emphasized that “ecommerce platforms will also be held liable with the sellers if it fails, after notice, to expeditiously remove or disable access to goods or services appearing on its platform that it knows, or should know, to be not compliant with law; or if the, ecommerce platform permits an online merchant not authorized to do business in the Philippines to offer its goods and services for sale.”

On the other hand, Gatchalian asserted that ecommerce platform operators will not be held responsible if they relied on the accuracy, authenticity, and veracity of an online merchant’s representations, warranties, or submitted documents, even if these turn out to be inaccurate or false, provided that ecommerce operators are able to show evidence of good faith that they exerted reasonable efforts toascertain the reliability of the submitted documents.

They will also not be held liable if they relied on the representations, warranties, or submissions of an online merchant stating that the latter is duly authorized under existing Philippine laws to engage in ecommerce, or has obtained all necessary permits, licenses, or approvals required for the sale of goods and services it is offering, or that the goods and services being offered conform to applicable laws.

Gatchalian stressed that the ITA is one of the priority measures mentioned by President Rodrigo Duterte in his latest State of the Nation Address as he urged the Philippine Senate expedite the passage of the bill.

“During these times when people are under a pandemic and relying heavily on online transactions, an enabling law that will impose stricter rules and regulations on the medium to avoid consumers from falling prey to these unscrupulous individuals is all the more needed,” he said.