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House urges the establishment of an e-commerce bureau

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The proposed Internet Transactions Act, which President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. listed as a priority bill in his first State of the Nation Address, was adopted by the House of Representatives on final reading on Monday.

A total of 245 MPs supported House Bill 4, which aims to establish an electronic commerce (e-commerce) bureau to safeguard customers and businesses conducting online transactions, during Monday’s plenary session. No politician opposed the proposal or chose to abstain.

Speaker Martin Romualdez, Senior Deputy Majority Leader Sandro Marcos, and Tingog party-list representatives wrote the majority of it. Jude Acidre as well as Yedda Marie Romualdez.

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, according to Batangas Rep. Mario Vittorio Mario, who is the bill’s sponsor.

The proposed e-commerce bureau will work as a sort of one-stop shop for customer concerns regarding online transactions and will be the “central body” charged with regulating online trade.

“No less than our Chief Executive underlined the need to enact a law which aims to establish an effective regulation of commercial activities through the internet or electronic means in order to ensure that consumer rights and data privacy are protected, innovation is encouraged, fair advertising practices and competition are promoted, online transactions are secured, intellectual property rights are protected, and product standards and safety are observed,” Mario said.

According to him, any firm, local or international, that deliberately and freely directs its activities to the Philippine market shall be subject to the Internet Transactions Act and shall be assumed to be conducting business in the Philippines.

Additionally, the proposed rule ensures parity and respects competition between online retailers and those who sell their products and services through physical stores.

The e-commerce bureau will take the initiative in creating platforms for online dispute resolution that will serve as a single point of contact for customers and online retailers looking for out-of-court settlement of issues.

The same bureau has been given the authority to create, manage, and maintain a registry of online businesses that will give customers access to data and information of registered online business entities for the purpose of confirming the legitimacy, existence, and other pertinent information pertaining to business entities.

To guarantee the security and safety of online transactions, the Department of Trade and Industry will take the lead in creating an industry-led e-commerce trust mark.

If found to be in breach of the proposed law’s requirements, it sets different penalties for online retailers, e-commerce platforms, ride-hailing service providers, as well as users.

Using the most recent report from e-Conomy Southeast Asia, Mario claimed that online retail and other e-commerce services are a “mainstay” in the lives of Filipinos. The report showed that the Philippines saw the fastest growth in digital investments in the region, with a 63 percent increase from 2021 to 2022.

The country’s digital economy is predicted to reach USD20 billion in gross merchandise value by the end of this year, up 22% from the previous year, according to the same estimate.

According to him, the local digital economy is expected to reach $35 billion by 2025, rising at a pace of 20% CAGR, and might reach $100 billion to $150 billion by 2030.

“Despite the partial return of in-store shopping, e-commerce still made up 70% of all digital sales in the Philippines. The top three digital activities among urban Filipinos are e-commerce, food delivery, and video on demand, with adoption rates of 88 percent, 69 percent, and 58 percent, respectively “said he.

According to him, the Philippines is also anticipated to become a popular investment center across several industries, including digital financial services.

Government laws “must be solidly in place to protect the rights and interests of consumers and to offer them with remedies in case of complaints, given the real and predicted growth in e-commerce transactions,” he said.

Additionally, he continued, “by prescribing guidelines, businesses operating in the digital market, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, will be able to scale up, and expand their markets, build their reputations, and create verifiable track records of their performance and trustworthiness.

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