House panel approves Internet transactions bill

The Committee on Trade and Industry of the House of Representatives yesterday approved the Internet Transaction Act, which seeks to protect consumers and merchants engaged in Internet transactions.

During its virtual hearing, the panel passed a consolidated version of the proposed law, which is one of the priority legislations cited by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. in his maiden State of the Nation Address.

The proposed law seeks to create the “e-commerce bureau” to regulate Internet commercial activities and protect consumers who engage in online transactions.

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.

It aims to regulate all business-to-business and business-to-consumer commercial transactions over the Internet.

This includes those related to Internet retail, online travel services, digital media providers, ride-hailing services and digital financial services.

The panel expedited the approval of the proposal, citing Rule 10, Section 48 of the House Rules, which authorizes the committees to dispose of priority measures already filed and approved on the third reading in the previous 18th Congress.

Batangas Representative Mario Vittorio Marino emphasized the growth of e-commerce transactions, which he said called for government regulation.

“The exponential rise and consequent prevalence of online purchases are largely due to the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns that have constrained the everyday consumer to stay at home,” Marino said.

The lawmaker stressed the need to provide an efficient regulatory mechanism to address consumer complaints and concerns, including privacy issues, trade, taxation and labor.

“Likewise, consumer concern on security issues should be addressed by strengthening awareness in data security and supporting the capability of firms to protect e-commerce platforms,” he noted.

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