Consumer groups said the proposed law that seeks to protect online customers and merchants should also cover consumer-to-consumer transactions.

“There is a gap relating to the customer-to-customer transaction, which is explicitly exempted from the bill,” said Ronald Gustilo, national campaigner of Digital Pinoys, a network of digital advocates focused on developments in telecommunications. 

“Most unscrupulous sellers are not registered with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) nor the Securities and Exchange Commission,” he said via Messenger chat. 

Sponsored by Senator Mark A. Villar, the recently filed Senate Bill No. 1846, or the Internet Transactions Act of 2022, seeks to ensure the protection of consumer rights and data privacy in online transactions.

The proposed measure will cover business-to-business and business-to-consumer internet transactions, including internet retail of consumer goods and non-financial services, online travel, online media, and online delivery.

“Consumer-to-consumer transactions shall be exempt from the operation of this act, without prejudice to the application of other laws,” a section of the bill reads.

While the bill both protects e-commerce players and promotes the rapidly growing industry, the exemption can be exploited by scammers, Mr. Gustilo said.

“As such, the bill should define when consumer-to-consumer sellers become online merchants, which may be determined based on sales or product volume,” he noted.

Rodolfo B. Javellana, Jr., president of the advocacy group United Filipino Consumers and Commuters, agreed that the bill’s coverage should be expanded. 

“There’s still time to expand the bill’s scope,” he said in a phone interview. “This is a welcome development if they think consumers need protection, because a lot have become victims.”

He said it is important for the lawmakers to hold public consultations on the matter.

The bill also calls for the establishment of an e-commerce bureau under the DTI.

This is to “ensure the attainment of the objectives of this act and promote the growth of e-commerce,” the bill reads. The e-commerce division created by the Department of Budget and Management under the Competitiveness Bureau of the DTI in Jan. 2020 will be abolished.

The aim of the Internet Transactions Act is to combat online fraud, Mr. Villar said. 

“Once signed into law, merchants and consumers will be able to safely conduct business across different online platforms,” he said in a statement. — Patricia B. Mirasol