Consumer protection in door-to-door balikbayan boxes

Published July 10, 2021, 7:00 AM

by Atty. Vic Dimagiba

As the world economy  recovers, more OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) will resume sending balikbayan boxes to their relatives in the country in view of  the limitations of  foreign travel. Prior to COVID 19, consumer complaints against freight forwarders handling delivery of balikbayan boxes included delayed, none or wrong  delivery, missing and pilfered items .The OFWs’ relatives were placed at the mercy of illegitimate delivery services . Most of the undelivered items ended on display for sale or promotion at surplus and used stores.

I attended the virtual public consultation held by DTI on July 1, 2021 on the new rules governing the business of freight forwarders .

The  objectives of these  Rules are as follows: ”To lay down the minimum standards and requirements for the recognition of freight forwarders; Upgrade the quality of services, capabilities, resources, and expertise of the covered firms in order for them to meet the demands of the Philippines’ new global, trade and growth on domestic trade; Curtail acts and practices inimical to the fast growth of the freight forwarding industry and prejudicial to the interests of Philippine businesses and the general public; and Promote and encourage fair, honest, and equitable relations among parties in consumer transactions”.

 An important portion of the rules specified the strict requirements for leadership.  ”Qualifications of Key Operating Officers were described as: At least two (2) Key Operating Officers which may refer to the Owner, President, Chief Operating Officer, General Manager, or Operations Manager or their equivalent shall have the following: Relevant trainings of at least 150 hours for international forwarders and minimum of 40 hours for domestic forwarders;  For the five categories, at least one of the key operating officers must have at least three (3) year experience in shipping, freight forwarding and/or related activities. For those applying as Cargo Consolidator and NVOCC, the three-year freight forwarding experience must include trainings on consolidation of export cargoes.”

It was also clearly outlined how the Responsibilities and Obligations of Recognized Firms were listed . The recognized firms shall have the following responsibilities and obligations: “Display the original copy of the Certificate of Recognition in a conspicuous  place within the recognized firm’s premises; Update DTI within thirty (30) days from the date any changes in the documentary requirements such as, List of Key Operating Officers; foreign agents or principals or domestic agents; branch offices; Amendments in Articles  of Incorporation/Partnership from the date the firm received from SEC the said document; firm’s name, address and/or warehouse address. Submit reportorial requirements such as Cargo Statistics Report on a semestral basis [July and January of next year], Annual Audited Financial Statements within thirty (30) days from the deadline of filing of income tax return with the BIR; and copy of cargo insurance policy within thirty (30) days from renewal or coverage; Renew its recognition within two (2) months before the expiration thereof; and Ensure adherence to the existing Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Freight Forwarders; A previously recognized freight forwarder under a category or more categories that intends to apply for a different category shall inform the DTI in writing whether the current category/ies is/are to be retained, if not, the application shall be considered new. Freight forwarders are required to maintain a minimum cargo insurance of P300,000.00,”

On the consumer end, “there will be a process  for the filing of Complaints. Thus, it was detailed that any complaints for violations hereof shall be filed and processed in accordance with DTI’s existing uniform procedural rules and regulations on handling or processing of administrative complaints. In the event a decision against the recognized firm is rendered the penalties enumerated under relevant DTI laws, rules shall be applied. Unlawful acts and omissions. The following offenses shall be governed by existing DTI Rules and Regulations without prejudice to criminal and civil actions: Engaging in freight forwarding business without first securing an appropriate recognition from the DTI; Misrepresentation by a firm that it has a subsisting recognition; Use of subsisting recognition issued to another entity; Failure to display the valid and original copy of Certificate of Recognition; Misrepresentation by the applicant, of any material fact in obtaining the recognition, or any other certification/s or documents; Transferring or authorizing the use of recognition to another entity other than the recognized firm; Failure to deliver cargo as required in the transport document; Failure to deliver cargo to its rightful owner; Delay in the delivery of cargo. Pilferage, Refusal/prevention/obstruction to permit or to allow entrance, presentation, inspection, taking of pictures/video recordings, making of sketches, taking of copies.”

When the season for sending balikbayan boxes starts, the consumer can look forward that they are dealing with legitimate freight forwarders as the new rules tighten compliance. No more missing chocolate boxes, toys , gadgets  shoes , canned goods, clothes and other personal items  that ended on sale and promotion  in surplus and used  stores .

Atty. Vic Dimagiba

President of Laban Konsyumer Inc. full term member of Consumers International

Email us at [email protected]

 
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