Complaints involving online transactions surge during COVID-19 lockdown—DTI
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) reported a surge of consumer complaints involving online transactions during strict lockdowns enforced by the government in a bid to contain the coronavirus.
During a House trade and industry committee hearing on Thursday, DTI Undersecretary Ruth Castelo said that the number of complaints involving online sellers and buyers totaled to 8,059 in April and May.
For the first three months of 2020, however, there were only 985 complaints received by the DTI.
“Usually [the complaints were about] defective products or deceptive transactions by the seller. Mostly, product-related or non-delivery or late delivery or the product delivered is not what is advertised,” Castelo said.
“Less than 1,000 po yung complaints that we have received from January to March but because everybody was at home during the height of the ECQ (enhanced community quarantine0 in April and May, it has risen [by] 8,000 kaya po naging 9,044 yung total number ng complaints natin,” she added.
According to DTI data presented before the House committee, complaints involving online transactions before the “peak of the ECQ’s impact” rose by 78.22 percent in April and May.
Meanwhile, complaints involving two of the more popular shopping platforms like Lazada and Shopee decreased by 40.99 percent but complaints against individual sellers on Facebook Marketplace climbed by 62.16 percent.
DTI figures also showed that complaints involving overpricing “substantially” increased by 51 percent, with 6,992 complaints recorded.
But since products involved alcohol, face masks and other products that are not under the purview of the DTI, such complaints were referred to other agencies, such as the Department of Health, for appropriate action.
Castelo also told lawmakers that authorities have so far arrested around 500 merchants.
The total value of confiscated products, meanwhile, amounted to around P100 million, the DTI official added.
However, she said complainants usually lacked the interest to pursue the case or charges against the sellers.
“Most of the time, either the complainant lacks interest, hindi na niya ipu-pursue, especially if it’s a non-existent seller. There are a lot of times that a consumer would just buy from any page or any online merchant without finding out kung sino po ‘yun or finding out the reputation, the track record or san ba mahahanap in case there’s a problem later on,” Castelo explained.
“That’s why we always include that in our education to make sure, siyempre po it’s not always merchant ang at fault, pati po ang consumer must also be responsible…so that he or she would know how to file the complaint later on,” she added.
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