House Approves Office of Electronic Commerce Bill

The House of Representatives on Tuesday night approved the bill mandating the creation of the Office of Electronic Commerce which will be tasked with protecting consumers and merchants engaged in Internet transactions.

The chamber approved House Bill 7805, or the Internet Transactions Bill, on third and final reading with 232 affirmative votes, six negative votes and no abstentions.

Business-to-business and business-to-consumer commercial transactions on the Internet will be regulated by the proposed law.

These include those related to internet retail, online travel services, digital media providers, ride-sharing services and digital financial services.

The proposed Electronic Commerce Bureau will regulate online commerce and be the virtual one-stop shop for consumer complaints about Internet transactions. The office will be the “central authority” for Internet commerce, as proposed.

Valenzuela City Representative Wes Gatchalian, the author of the bill, said the proposed office would only have authority over activities that are currently unregulated but are nonetheless conducted on the internet.

“Any regulation by the Electronic Commerce Bureau that may affect regulated industries will only be incidental to the government agency or instrument exercising primary jurisdiction over that specific activity,” he said.

Gatchalian said the bill would not cover consumer-to-consumer transactions or those considered minor, one-time or low-value transactions.

The bill would also require the Department of Trade and Industry to lead the creation of an e-commerce trustmark.

Gatchalian said it would encourage local businesses to log on and foreign organizations to choose to register with the e-commerce bureau.

“This trustmark will represent the safety and security of Internet transactions that will ultimately build consumer trust and lead to robust growth in the Internet economy,” Gatchalian said.

“As consumers, you will want to deal with entities that have been given this stamp of approval. As a merchant, you would want to have this trust mark on your website so that your consumers can transact with peace of mind. »

Under the proposed law, online e-commerce platforms such as Lazada, Shopee and Zalora would share joint and several liability with their own merchants if those platforms failed to exercise extraordinary care to avoid any loss or any harm to the consumer, did not publish details of their merchants, did not review goods related to food, medicine and cosmetics, among others.

The proposed law would make it illegal to cancel orders for food and/or grocery items made through ride-sharing services when the items had already been paid for or were already in the possession of the ride-sharing service partner or in transit to the consumer.

It would also be illegal to “unreasonably shame, belittle, embarrass or humiliate ride-sharing service partners.”

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