House bill regulating Internet transactions gets final House nod

This development should bode well for the Philippines' burgeoning e-commerce sector.

The House plenary (Ellson Quismorio/ MANILA BULLETIN)

The House of Representatives unanimously approved on third and final reading Monday, Dec. 12 House Bill (HB) No. 4, or the proposed “Internet Transactions Act”.

With a nominal vote result of 245-0-0 (yes-no-abstain), the measure--which is included in the Common Legislative Agenda (CLA) of the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC)--finally gained the chamber’s final nod.

The full title of the bill reads, “An Act providing protection to consumers and merchants engaged in Internet transactions, creating for the purpose the Electronic Commerce Bureau, and appropriating funds therefor".

The E-Commerce Bureau will be tasked to regulate Internet commercial activities and protect consumers who engage in online transactions. It will be attached to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

The main authors of the proposed statute are House Speaker and Leyte 1st district Rep. Martin Romualdez, Senior Deputy Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte 1st district Rep. Sandro Marcos, and Tingog Party-list Reps. Yedda Marie Romualdez and Jude Acidre.

Earlier, President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. called for the enactment of a law establishing “effective regulation of commercial activities through the Internet or electronic means to ensure that consumer rights and data privacy are protected, innovation is encouraged, fair advertising practices and competition are promoted, online transactions are secure, intellectual property rights are respected, and where product standards and safety are observed".

In their explanatory note, the Speaker and his co-authors said the Internet “has revolutionized our conventional way of buying and selling in ways unimaginable to those that have come before us.”

“This bill seeks to promote an environment founded on trust among consumers and merchants as a means to increase the number of e-commerce participants, and ultimately achieve sustainable growth,” they said.

It would also “address the need for a singular office that will be responsible to carry out provisions thereof, ensure the implementation of Republic Act No. 8792 or the E-Commerce Act of 2000 and serve as the focal point in the monitoring and implementation of the Philippine e-commerce roadmap,” they said.

The proposed law covers all Internet transactions and to all domestic merchants and foreign entities doing online business in the Philippines. It would also cover ride hailing service providers.

The defines “Internet transaction” as the “sale or purchase of goods or services, whether between businesses, households, individuals, governments, and other public or private organizations, conducted over the Internet".

At least one point of these transactions is conducted over the Internet but the payment and ultimate delivery of the goods or service may be conducted on or offline.

“E-commerce” refers to the “production, distribution, marketing, sale, or delivery of goods and services by electronic means".

An “online merchant” is “a natural or juridical person, regardless of location, that directly sells, manufactures goods, or offers for sale, any good or service, either individually or through a platform, in the ordinary course of business, over the internet, through a website, an online marketplace, a social media website or application or through other similar means".