The House of Representatives on Tuesday night approved on third and final reading a measure creating an electronic commerce (e-commerce) bureau to protect consumers and merchants engaged in internet transactions.

During the plenary session, the chamber approved House Bill 7805, or the proposed Internet Transactions Act, with 232 affirmative votes, six negative votes, and no abstention.

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.

The proposed e-commerce bureau will serve as the “central authority” tasked to regulate online trade and shall act as a virtual one-stop-shop for consumer complaints on internet transactions.

Valenzuela City Rep. Wes Gatchalian, the author of the bill, said the proposed bureau will only have authority over those activities which are currently not regulated but are nevertheless conducted over the internet.

“Any regulation of the eCommerce Bureau that may affect regulated industries shall only be ancillary to the government agency or instrumentality exercising primary jurisdiction over that specific activity,” he said.

Gatchalian said the bill will not cover consumer-to-consumer transactions, or those considered petty, one-off, or occasional low-value transactions.

Under the bill, online e-commerce platforms such as Lazada, Shopee, and Zalora shall share solidary liability with their own merchants if these platforms fail to exercise extraordinary diligence to prevent any loss or damage to the consumer; fail to publish the details of their merchants; fail to examine goods related to food, drugs, cosmetics, among others.

The proposed law makes it illegal to cancel orders for food and/or grocery items made via ride-hailing services when the said items have already been paid by or are already in the possession of the ride-hailing service partner or in transit to the consumer.

It will also be illegal to “unreasonably shame, demean, embarrass, or humiliate ride-hailing service partners.”

A consumer, however, may cancel an order if the delivery of ordered food or grocery items was delayed for at least an hour from the expected time of arrival due to the fault or negligence of the ride-hailing service partner.

To encourage businesses to go online and for foreign organizations to choose to register with the e-commerce bureau, the Department of Trade and Industry will be required to lead the establishment of an industry-led eCommerce Trustmark.

“This Trustmark will represent safety and security in internet transactions which will ultimately build consumer confidence and lead to the robust growth of the internet economy. As consumers, you will want to deal with entities that have been given this seal of approval. As a merchant, you would want to have this Trustmark on your website so that your consumers can transact with peace of mind,” Gatchalian said. (PNA)