“PM is the key” no more
by: Atty. Andrea B. Juarez
The Department of Trade and Industry reminds all sellers, especially online sellers to indicate the prices of items for sale.
It has been a common and accepted practice to post items for sale on online platforms without indicating the prices of items for sale. “PM is key,” is a phase almost anyone is familiar with when buying things online. Sellers would post items for sale and ask consumers to send them a private message if these consumers are interested in buying the items they are selling, or to simply inquire. This practice is so common that no one even thinks twice about it.
It is, however, important to take note and familiarize oneself with several laws governing the sale of items, not just in “physical stores” but also online. Not everyone, both buyers and sellers alike, is aware of these.
Republic Act No. 7394, otherwise known as The Consumer Act of the Philippines, was enacted in 1992 to protect the interests of consumers, promote their general welfare, and establish standards of conduct for business and industry.
Article 81 of the Consumer Act provides for a Price Tag requirement stating that 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.” However, if the items for sale are too small or the nature of the product makes it impractical to display a price tag, a price list shall be placed at the nearest point where the products are displayed. This requirement must be written clearly, indicating the product price per unit in pesos and centavos, and must not have any erasures or alterations of any sort.
The law defines “price tag” as “any device, written, printed, affixed or attached to a consumer product or displayed in a consumer repair or service establishment for the purpose of indicating the retail price per unit or service.”
The requirement on displaying of price tags is further emphasized in Republic Act No. 1074 (An Act to Amend RA No. 71 entitled “An Act Requiring Price Tags or Labels to be Affixed on All Articles of Commerce Offered for Sale at Retail and Penalizing Violations of Such Requirement”). The law mandates that all articles of commerce and trade offered for sale to the public at retail shall be publicly displayed with appropriated tags or labels to indicate the price of each item for sale.
Said requirement, however, is not limited to the sale of items on “actual” or “physical” stores but it also applies to those selling products through electronic means, or online. The Department of Trade and Industry, through Facebook, has reminded “online sellers” to indicate the prices of items for sale, stating “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.”
The Consumer Act provides of an exemption, however, to this labeling requirement. If for good or sufficient reasons, full compliance with the labeling requirements is impracticable or is not necessary for the adequate protection of public health and safety, then regulations shall be implemented exempting such substances from these requirements to the extent it deems consistent with the objective of adequately safeguarding public health and safety, and any hazardous substance.
The same law provides for penalties in case of any violations of its requirements. Any person who violates the Price Tag Requirement for the first time shall be subject to a fine of not less than Two hundred pesos (P200.00) but not more than Five thousand pesos (P5,000.00) or by imprisonment of not less than one (1) month but not more than six (6) months or both, at the discretion of the court. A second conviction shall warrant the penalty of revocation of business permit and license.
Complaints regarding violations of The Consumer Act may be done by filing a Petition or sending a Letter-Complaint to the concerned department of the DTI. The concerned department will thereafter conduct an investigation. After such investigation, administrative sanctions may be imposed, even if not prayed for in the complaint. These sanctions include, but are not limited to the issuance of a cease and desist order, the acceptance of a voluntary assurance of compliance or discontinuance, restitution or rescission of the contract without damages, condemnation and seizure of the consumer product found to be hazardous to health and safety, and the imposition of fines in such amount as deemed reasonable by the Secretary, which shall in no case be less than Five hundred pesos (P500.00) nor more than Three hundred thousand pesos (P300,000.00) depending on the gravity of the offense, and an additional fine of not more than One thousand pesos (P1,000.00) for each day of continuing violation.
The Joint DTI-DOH-DA Administrative Order No. 01 (Rules and Regulations for Consumer Protection in a Transaction Covered by the Consumer Act of the Philippines Through Electronic Means under the E-Commerce Act), applied the provisions of the Consumer Act to retailing done electronically. It orders retailers, sellers, distributors, suppliers, or manufacturers engaged in electronic commerce to adopt fair and reasonable business practices. They are mandated to ensure compliance with the requirements for labeling and packaging, including price tag, indicating a fair, accurate and adequate word, statement, or information about a consumer product labeling and fair packaging under the Consumer Act.
The same Order states that in cases of complaints, any person aggrieved for violation(s) of the Consumer Act transacted using electronic means may file such complaint before the concerned implementing agencies by furnishing a copy of the specific electronic data messages or electronic document related to the transaction.
The E-Commerce Act has defined electronic data message as information generated, sent, received, or stored by electronic or similar means. Electronic document, on the other hand, has been defined as information, or the representation of information or other modes of written expression, however represented, by which a right is established or an obligation extinguished, or by which a fact may be proved and affirmed, which is received, recorded, transmitted, stored, processed, retrieved or produced electronically.
All actions or claims shall prescribe within two (2) years from the time the consumer transaction was consummated or the deceptive or unfair and unconscionable act or practice was committed and in case of hidden defects, from its discovery.