Online sellers offer hazardous consumer products, senator warns

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Saturday said that reports on consumer products with hazardous chemicals that continue to flood online platforms should set off alarm bells to concerned authorities.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Gatchalian said online platforms should be more aggressive in going after deceptive, prohibited, and unconscionable sales and practices.

EcoWaste Coalition claimed that mercury-laden products are being sold illegally by third-party dealers in e-commerce marketplaces and had notified lead regulatory agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural resources (DENR) on their recent discovery.

The group found out that online dealers are selling mercury thermometers and sphygmomanometers. Mercury thermometers are used to measure body temperature while sphygmomanometers are used to measure blood pressure and liquid mercury in flask containers.

The government had already phased out mercury-containing medical devices effective September, 2010 following an administrative order issued by the Department of Health (DOH).

“We have to accept the reality that online shopping is the new normal. And while online transactions continue to thrive along with the proliferation of unscrupulous sellers, we cannot just sit back and wait until a proper mechanism is in place,” Gatchalian said.

Gatchalian is the principal author of the proposed Internet Transactions Act.

The Internet Transactions Act (Senate Bill 1591) seeks to make online transactions more consumer friendly and strengthen the country’s digital economy.

It also proposes strict regulations to protect consumers from unethical and unscrupulous business practices on the internet.

Under SB 1591, e-commerce platforms shall share solidary liability with an online merchant.

Covered in this provision are instances when the online platform fails to ascertain that the products pose risks to the life and health of consumers and if the online merchant is not duly registered with the appropriate regulatory agencies.

“These online marketplaces should not only be responsible but also conscientious on what they are offering to the public,” Gatchalian, Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs, said.

During the last Senate hearing on SB 1591, Gatchalian raised concerns on the online consumers’ exposure to counterfeit items as the internet has broadened accessibility to a wide range of products and services, including prohibited items.

“We should not allow these e-commerce marketplaces to rake in profits from illegal business practices. Consumers should be mindful of the quality of the items that they purchase online and they need to be assured that the products being offered to them are not harmful,” Gatchalian added.