Bill protects consumer

A panel in the House of Representatives has approved a measure granting broader protection for Filipino consumers, such as requiring the translation to English or Filipino on product labels written in foreign characters and/or languages.

The   House committee on trade and industry, chaired by Las Piñas City Rep. Mark Villar, principal author of the bill, expressed hope that Congress will prioritize the passage of the measure that will amend certain provisions of the Consumer Act of the Philippines.

 Villar said his panel has readied a committee report of the consolidated bill which will be submitted for plenary discussion and approval by next week.

One of the salient provisions is the adoption of the United Nations Guidelines on consumer protection as guiding principles to enhance and strengthen consumer protection, Villar said.

Davao del Norte Rep. Anthony del Rosario, the committee vice chairman and also one of the principal authors of the  bill, said the proposed measure shall be “harmonized with current developments particularly brought about by technological advancement and the globalized economy that directly affect consumer transactions.”

“Moreover, the bill institutionalizes the eight consumer rights which are right to basic needs, right to choose, right to representation, right to redress, right to consumer education, right to safety, right to healthy environment and right to information and five consumer responsibilities which include critical awareness, action, social concern, environmental awareness and solidarity,” Del Rosario said.

Under the measure, the Department of Trade and Industry shall be empowered to close business premises or establishments found in the act of selling unsafe products that are harmful to health and cause injury to people.

The DTI  shall also be mandated by law to notify the manufacturer, distributor or seller of a substandard or materially defective product as to such finding and order the manufacturer, distributor or seller without delay to: issue product recall and give notice to every person to whom such consumer product was delivered or sold.

The measure also requires the issuance by the seller or supplier of gift checks, certificates, or cards that contain an expiry date as a deceptive sales act or practice unless they were issued by the supplier under an award, loyalty or promotional program.

It also considers unfair and unconscionable sales acts and practices, by including a provision to address contract of adhesion and aggressive marketing scheme.

The measure also requires the translation to English or Filipino on product labels written in foreign characters/languages.

It also mandates manufacturers or distributors to maintain consumer hotlines or service centers, emails and other effective means to address consumer-related complaints and inquiries as to warranty claims and other needed services.

The measure also introduces a new provision on the establishment of a Timbangan ng Bayan in all markets nationwide to provide all buying public an effective means of checking the accuracy of the weight and quantity of the goods purchased and at the same time, discourage dishonest vendors to commit any irregularity.

The bill also amends the scope of price tag requirements by providing, among others, that it is  unlawful to charge more than the actual retail price when purchase is done with the use of credit cards, automatic teller machine/debit cards or similar means unless authorized in writing by the credit card company and the additional rates are reasonable as determined by the implementing agency.

Meanwhile, Villar said the measure, once get enacted, shall require that in repair service obligation, manufacturers shall inform the consumer about which particular parts of the goods are damaged and have to be repaired, and that the consumer shall be given option to replace only the damaged parts.

“It also identifies the internet, cybershops, social networking site, landline or mobile phone also as media for false, deceptive or misleading advertisement,” Villar said.

He stressed penalties shall be imposed against violators:  an administrative fine of not less than P50,000 (from the current P500 to P3,000) or equivalent to 5 percent of the gross value of sales of consumer products and services subject of a consumer complaint whichever is higher and additional fine of not more than P1,000 for each day of continuing violation.

For criminal penalty, Villar said the measure provides a fine ranging from P50,000 to P1 million or imprisonment of three years but not more than seven years for violation of any provision of the Act and an additional penalty of revocation of the business permit and license for a second conviction thereof.




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