The month-long celebration of Consumer Welfare at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) concluded with the 2021 Consumer E-Congress, during which senior officers from the department’s Consumer Protection Group discussed how their respective bureaus have addressed the challenges of digital consumerism and highlighted additional consumer protection programs for their consumers.

Themed “Empowering Digital Consumers”, the E-Congress, now in its second year, focused on adjusting to consumerism online in the New Normal.

Undersecretary for the Consumer Protection Group Atty. Ruth B. Castelo set the tone of the event by introducing the powerhouse of speakers that shared their knowledge and expertise.

“We also wish to announce that DTI, through our E-Commerce Office (ECO) has been working with our partner agencies to come up with the Guidelines for Online Businesses,” she shares. “As we have been saying, our consumer protection laws do not distinguish. What applies to physical stores must apply to online businesses.”

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The speakers included Assistant Secretary for the Consumer Protection Group Ronnel O. Abrenica who tackled the challenges on consumer protection in the digital age, followed by co-Assistant Secretary for the Consumer Protection Group Atty. Ann Claire C. Cabochan, who covered cross-border cooperation and the increasing importance of consumer protection in the international setting. Meanwhile, Assistant Secretary for the Regional Operations Group Asteria C. Caberte discussed implementing the New Normal in Consumer Protection Programs in the regions.

Streamed virtually via Zoom and the DTI Consumer Care Facebook page, over 280 participants tuned in to listen. Addressing the audiences, through a pre-recorded video, the Honourable President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivered a Message of Support to the participants of the 2021 Consumer E-Congress.

“The E-Congress aims to foster awareness among our people on the benefits and risks involved in selling and buying in a digital platform,” he said. “May this E-Congress equip the participants with the tools and best practices to empower digital entrepreneurs and consumers.”

Also giving messages of support are Privacy Commissioner and Chairman of National Privacy Commission Raymund E. Liboro, Deputy Director General Atty. Teodoro C. Pascua, Undersecretary for the Department of Agriculture Consumer and Political Affairs Kristine Evangelista and DTI Regional Operations Group Undersecretary Bles Lantayona.

“In the regions and provinces, our DTI Regional Offices are also doing their best to address the queries and complaints of consumers related to online transactions. It is a fact that many are anxious about Consumer Protection in this digital era,” Usec. Lantayona admits. “Rest assured that the DTI is working to ensure that consumers remain protected even as we also perform our mandate of championing businesses.”

The proposed Joint Administrative Order (JAO) on Guidelines For Online Businesses: Reiterating the Laws and Regulations Applicable to Online Businesses and Consumers were also covered by the Officer in Charge of the DTI E-Commerce Office Director Edgar C. Herrera. According to Dir. Herrera, it is currently under revision after consulting with e-commerce stakeholders such as online platforms, e-retailers, industry associations, and online merchants.

Participants were also given the open (virtual) floor to ask further inquiries, many related to addressing concerns on e-commerce platforms. These were answered by the Asec. Ronnel Abrenica, Asec. Atty. Ann Claire Cabochan, Asec. Asteria C. Caberte and Director Marcus Valdez.

The 2021 Consumer E-Congress is one of the several activities in line with the celebration of Consumer Welfare Month, with the theme “Digital Consumers: The New Normal”.

For consumer-related concerns and queries, send an email to ConsumerCare@dti.gov.ph or call the One-DTI (1-384) Hotline.

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