A computer keyboard is seen in this picture illustration taken in Bordeaux, Southwestern France, Aug. 22, 2016. — REUTERS/REGIS DUVIGNAU

THE Trade department is seeing a surge in new business names being registered by online retailers as the lockdown forced many companies to shift to e-commerce.

Trade Assistant Secretary Mary Jean Pacheco said the number of business names under internet retail registered with the department stood at 68,000 as of August so far.

The government placed Luzon under an enhanced community quarantine starting mid-March, halting nearly all economic activity. Except for those offering essential services, many brick-and-mortar stores were shuttered through mid-May, prompting consumers to turn to online shopping.

In May alone, new business name registrations under internet retail stood at 9,692, nearly 450% higher than the 1,753 names registered from January to mid-March.

The month of June saw 33,000 new registrations.

“We look at this as a barometer of the growing interest in e-commerce, and with this, a concomitant need for the government to continue and scale up e-commerce interventions,” Ms. Pacheco said.

She said that the country has opportunities for market access, with e-commerce valued at $2.4 billion. This accounts for 4% of the country’s total retail valued at $63 billion.

“There are over 120 million mobile subscribers in our country, the Philippines is the highest internet user in the world. Yet only 10% spend online,” she added.

Logistics costs, she said, must be reduced to improve e-commerce.

The DTI plans to update its e-commerce roadmap, focusing on areas like retail security and speed. It has been working with the University of the Philippines (UP) Law Center for academic and technical assistance in developing the roadmap.

Daily seller onboarding at e-commerce company Lazada Philippines tripled during the lockdown. The company said that more Filipinos are now using digital payments for their online transactions from the previous preference for cash on delivery, as buyers sought contactless payment solutions amid coronavirus fears.

Lazada said cashless payments on their platform increased by more than two times during the lockdown, while monthly orders also doubled in the beginning of the year from 2019.

At the same time, there has been a spike in consumer complaints on online transactions during the lockdown, the Department of Trade and Industry reported.

The department received 9,044 complaints about online transactions in the five months to May, compared with 2,457 complaints in the same period last year. Around 8,000 of the complaints this year came in between April and May. — Jenina P. Ibañez