I attended Dr. Sathita Wimonkunarak presentation on “Key Observations and Food for Thought from the Thailand Experience” discussed during the Report of the ASEAN peer review of the country’s consumer protection policy and law.
She stated that as a result of new ways of living in the digital transformation together with the COVID-19 pandemic as the major catalyst, consumers more and more tend to rely on technology and the internet for conducting their daily activities such as online shopping, food delivery and social media.
Her key observation was that while there are existing laws in the Philippines to deal with these issues, the level of effectiveness in the law enforcement and appropriate redress for affected consumers seem to have a room for improvement.
Her recommendations were based on the principle that policy makers should focus on how to create consumer protection policy to cover new potential harms that happen to vulnerable consumers in the digital age. Included in her recommendations are consumer fraud, misleading and unfair commercial practices, unsafe products available online related to Philippines National Standard, difficulty in the cross-border enforcement and obtaining redress and violation of privacy and personal data protection.
Her presentation recommended that there be more synergy between the government and consumer associations on these issues. The report presented that the government did a very good job in conducting advocacy to raise consumer awareness through the use of both traditional media and digital media, but the speaker said the main challenge is how to create more synergy between the government and consumer associations in conducting such advocacy to consumers.
The presenter stressed that this challenge can be overcome by creating policy that enhances cooperation between governmental agencies and active consumer organizations in the Philippines. In this manner, this will lead to more effective results in spreading their advocacy to Philippine consumers.
By way of example, she cited our group, Laban Konsyumer Inc. and the Bulacan Consumer Affairs Council which actively work with consumers. These groups can complement the advocacy of government agencies and link them to consumer issues.
The main challenge of these consumer organizations is inadequacy of financial resources to effectively enhance their operational and capacity building activities. She believes that these consumer associations should be supported by regular budget funds and not just projectbased funding.
Moreover, such funding from the government can be supported thru theestablishment of anationwide consumer association by uniting consumer associations as one beyond the regional or sub-regional associations.In thisregard, she cited the model of the Thai Consumer Council which is composed of 237 consumer associations across Thailand.
In the proposed revision of the Consumer Act of the Philippines, there is a provision creating the Consumer Affairs Council of the Philippines or CACP. The objective of the CACP is to “improve the management, coordination and effectiveness of consumer programs.” The proposed CACP is a joint government, consumer organizations and business establishment’s collaboration. The members of the government agencies are DTI, DOH, DA, DepEd , DOE, BSP, DENR , DOTR, DICT, DILG and PCC. There are four (4) representatives from recognized national consumer associations and four (4) representatives from the business sectors. The CACP operating expenses shall be sourced from funds allocated under the law. The CACP shall ensure the meaningful participation by consumers and consumer associations in the development and review of rules and regulations and that these rules are strictly implemented and observed.
Both the Thai and Philippine models may achieve the desired synergy of consumer associations and government in the pursuit of consumer welfare. Both models are presented in this column as we wind down the annual recognition of the role of consumers in nation building thru the Consumer Welfare Month.
Atty. Vic Dimagiba, President of Laban Konsyumer Inc.
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