Senate starts review of decades-old consumer protection laws

Published February 23, 2021, 1:26 PM

by Mario Casayuran

Senate on Tuesday, February 23 started reviewing decades-old laws on consumer protection to cope with the behavioral activities of traders and businessmen in a very-much improved online retail and commercial activities highlighted by modern electronic applications.

(Senate of the Philippines / FILE PHOTO)

Appearing before the Senate trade committee chaired by Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, Victorio Mario Dimagiba ,of  Laban Konsyumer Inc., supported the bills of Senator Imee R. Marcos and two other senators that seek to bring consumer protection to modern environment.

Dimagiba, however, said he foresees a bicameral conference committee meetings between the Senate and House  of Representatives panels to synchronize their measures because the Senate version talks of ‘’enhanced’’ protection of consumers while the House talks of ‘’revised’’ Consumer Act.

Department of Trade Undersecretary Ruth Castelo supported the bills of Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto and Senator Imee R. Marcos.

Professor Oliver Reyes, of the University of the Philippines (UP) law center, cautioned the Senate on how it would define mass media in light of a constitutional provision of mass media and their ownership.

Pimentel told Reyes that his staff would be ready to tackle the legal issue when his committee goes through the ‘’technical working group’’ (TWG) phase in law making..

In the explanatory of his Senate Bill 756, Recto said his bill seeks to amend Republic Act (R.A.) 7394, known as the “Consumer Act of the Philippines.’’

 Among the new provisions is the eight Consumer Bill of Rights namely, the right to: basic needs, choose products, representation, redress, consumer education, safety, healthy environment, and sanitation.

He said these rights have been endorsed by the United Nations through the United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection. Corollary to the consumer rights is the provision of five consumer responsibilities: critical awareness, action, social concern, environmental awareness, and solidarity.

The bill also provides a new Article mandating the English or Filipino translation of product labels written in foreign characters or languages.

This will allow better understanding of the contents, features and uses of imported products for consumer protection against unsafe products.

A new provision permanently banning suppliers who engaged in the importation of defective goods has also been included.

 The coverage of the provisions on advertising and promotion has been expanded to include those for consumer products, services and credit facilities which include sponsorships of programs, concerts, games, shows and similar activities.

A new article also protects consumers from aggressive marketing promotions that significantly impair the average consumer’s freedom of choice with regard to the purchase of a product or service. 

The chapter on Advertising and Sales Promotion is further strengthened with the addition of advertising general principles and a specific guideline in the presentation of advertisements. Hence, among others, the bill provides instructions on how advertisements should treat specific claims on ingredients, results of researches and surveys, scientific claims, testimonials and endorsements, and leadership claims.

 The bill increases the penalties for violations of any provision of the Consumer Act of the Philippines. It sets a uniform penalty to be imposed on any violations and lengthened the period of prescription for claims relative to deceptive or unfair and unconscionable practice from two (2) to three (3) years.

Further amendments to R.A. No. 7394 include the definition of terms in accordance with new technologies and trade practices. Notable of these new definitions is the one for “Mass Medici’ which now includes the internet, mobile phones, and similar electronic devices. The chapter on Consumer Product Quality and Safety has also been amended by adding the grant of authority for the automatic closing down of any establishments caught in flagrante delicto selling, distributing, manufacturing, producing, or importing substandard and hazardous products.