Online sellers are recently reminded to disclose prices of their respective products to their consumers as the e-commerce industry booms amid the community quarantine period.
In a Facebook post last Wednesday, a regional office of the Department of Trade and Industry said that online sellers should make their transactions “smooth” as possible by displaying the prices on the platform as mandated by Republic Act 7394 or the Consumer Act of the Philippines.
“HINDI COOL ang PM SENT sa online selling! Gawing smooth ang iyong transaction kaya ilagay na ang presyo ng produktong binebenta mo,” DTI’s Sultan Kudarat office said.
“Tandaan! Nakasaad sa RA 7394 o Consumer Act of the Philippines na unlawful ang pagbebenta ng kahit na anong produkto na walang karampatang price tag, label or marking ng presyo ng produkto,” it added.
It also accompanied its post with a meme that included what online sellers would typically reply to interested buyers once the latter would comment “HM po?” or “How much po?” if the prices aren’t displayed.
HINDI COOL ang PM SENT sa online selling! Gawing smooth ang iyong transaction kaya ilagay na ang presyo ng produktong…
Part of Article 81 of the Consumer Act or the provision on price tag requirement states:
“It shall be unlawful to offer any consumer product for retail sale to the public without an appropriate price tag, label or marking publicly displayed to indicate the price of each article and said products shall not be sold at a price higher than that stated therein and without discrimination to all buyers.”
The law, however, has been created in 1992, years before the boom of the e-commerce industry.
The ‘PM culture’
DTI’s post was shared by some Filipinos who reminded the public about the provision such as Facebook user Achinette Villamor who noted that the “PM mamser culture” is a “violation” of the Consumer Act.
“The price SHOULD BE posted along with the product. If it isn’t, you may bring this to the attention of DTI, the page admin, Facebook itself, or even local police since they’ve been cracking down on overpricing and other bad business practices ONLINE. Ilang seller na din ang nahuli dahil dito,” she wrote in a post.
Villamor also claimed that online sellers would refuse to display the products of their items for two reasons.
“Magkukumparahan ng presyo… Susulutin ng ibang sellers ang buyer,” she wrote.
Villamor pointed out that it is within the consumer’s rights to be informed about the prices, as well as be offered choices to ensure a healthy competition in the market.
DTI said that part of the consumer’s rights is the right to information which indicates they should be provided “protection against deceptive advertising or labelling.” It added that consumers additionally have “the right to be given the facts and information needed to make an informed choice.”
“Bakit kailangang transparent sa presyo? Para maiwasan ang overpricing at iba pang ipinagbabawal na gawain,” Villamor added in her post.
“Maaari bang ‘Send PM’ na lang ang ipaskil ng groceries, restaurants, at malls sa mga paninda nila imbis na presyo ng mga ito? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Kaya kung napabili ka through ‘Send PM’ at sa tingin mo ay na-agrabyado ka sa transaksyon, dumulog sa mga kinauukulan,” she continued.
There were other Filipinos who agreed with Villamor and found it bothersome to send a message to the seller instead of directly knowing the price beforehand.
“I don’t buy from them. I find it a stupid approach, to be frank. You’re wasting time & effort to keep answering messages. Sayang din ‘yung customer na umaalis kasi hassle pa magtanong ng presyo (I always skip shops na ganyan ang lakaran),” a Facebook user said.
Meanwhile, there were online users claiming to be a seller who alleged that “comments and interactions” are important activities in making an online business work, especially for “business pages paying ads and sponsored.”
“Sending a PM also makes us connected with our buyers and give us sellers the opportunity to salestalk, on the other hand, putting the price often makes them decline without even knowing what you actually can offer,” a Facebook user wrote.
Others claimed it is part of the online seller’s “marketing strategy” to “salestalk” the potential buyer, just like in a physical store where the salesperson is given the chance to market the product.
Last year, the DTI sought a law hoping to regulate online transactions in a bid to protect buyers from fraudulent products and from other issues.
DTI Undersecretary Ruth Castelo admitted that the country does not have a specific law for online selling so the agency had thought of establishing an “e-commerce roadmap.”
“Right now, the Consumer Act does not make a distinction between a brick-and-mortar store and an online store, and we want a specific law saying all online transactions shall be handled by this particular department,” she said in an interview in December last year.
Since lockdown measures were implemented in a bid to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus, businesses were encouraged to shift online to continue earning profits amid the strict stay-at-home guidelines.