DTI mobilizes WFH staff to monitor online sellers

Published July 13, 2020, 3:50 PM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has mobilized its work-from-home (WFH) staff to help in the monitoring of online sellers to boost the campaign of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) for online businesses to register and to help consumers from getting victimized by online scams.  

DTI Assistant Secretary Ann Clair Cabochan said in a virtual “Tapatan” forum that DTI staff on WFH across the country are monitoring online sellers as she cited the record number of consumer complaints, mostly involving online transactions.

 From January to June this year, consumer complaints have already reached 10,323 from only 848 complaints in the whole of 2017.

“What the DTI is doing now is for those staff who are working-from-home (WFH) all over the country are required to help monitor all online sellers and online stores,” Cabochan said. Their monitoring performance will form part of their individual weekly report. Monitoring online sellers is on top of the DTI people’s existing task to monitor prices in groceries and markets.

She said that DTI staff are on the lookout for online sellers who post “PM is the key”, which is not allowed because the Consumer Act requires sellers to put a price tag on their merchandize.

Most common consumer complaints is the quality of the real item as against what was shown online.

Cabochan said it is very difficult for buyers to really go after these sellers if they are not registered because they don’t even have a physical address and when problems come up they would just shutdown their sites.

Cabochan has urged online sellers to heed the BIR Revenue Memorandum Circular 60-2020 to establish the identity and traceability of sellers. She also stressed that the BIR MC, which has  given all online sellers to register on or before July 31, 2020 to avoid penalties, also provides for exemption.

Cabochan further said that the BIR exempts businesses with annual earnings of below P250,000 from income tax payment. Those with annual gross sales of below P3 million are also exempted from  VAT payment.

Meantime, Laban Konsyumer Inc. President Victorio Mario Dimagiba cited joint and solidary obligations of both the merchant and the online selling platforms where the two are held jointly liable for every consumer complaint filed against an online transaction.

“Online selling platform should understand that a consumer transaction is open and completed through their sites, so they can be considered a principal agency which means the act of the principal is also the act of the agent. They cannot just pass on saying they will investigate or apologize, they are also accountable,” said Dimagiba.

Dimagiba noted that in the Congressional hearings on the E-Commerce Law amendments, the online platforms oftentimes washed their hands off from any consumer complaints on grounds that they are just mere platform and they have no control over their merchants.

Meantime, Cabochan said that the best amendment in the e-Commerce Law is the creation of the e-Commerce office as this would ensure enforcement of laws.