Time to regulate online businesses


    Pending the passage of the Internet Transactions Act, the government is poised to issue a joint administrative order (JAO) regulating online businesses to strengthen consumer protection and to support the growth of electronic commerce (e-commerce) in the country
    The JAO reiterates the implementation of existing laws that protect consumers, and ensure that e-commerce sellers and platforms follow the laws, just like brick and mortar stores.

    The JAO provides that online businesses may be penalized in cases of violations of existing laws on data privacy, intellectual property, pricing, labelling, product standards, prohibited or controlled products, health products, licensing requirements, local government ordinances, and environmental compliance, among others.

    The JAO also lists the products that are prohibited for sale ranging from fertilizers to lottery tickets to counterfeit goods.

    Interestingly, the draft says the JAO prohibits products that relate to campaigns, elections, political issues or issues of public debate.

    “The purpose of this JAO is to ensure that online consumers are informed of their rights and the mechanisms for redress,” the JAO said.

    The JAO aims to increase consumer confidence in business-to-consumer e-commerce transactions.

    “It seeks to ensure that e-commerce platforms, electronic retailers (e-retailers), and online merchants are properly guided about the rules, regulations, and responsibilities in the conduct of their online business, considering the need to protect consumers against deceptive, unfair, and unconscionable sales acts and practices,” the draft said

    House Bill 7805, or the proposed Internet Transactions Act, was approved on the third and final reading in the House of Representatives.

    The bill seeks to regulate all business-to-business and business-to-consumer commercial transactions over the internet, including those related to internet retail, online travel services, digital media providers, ride hailing services, and digital financial services.