Online sellers need to abide laws, regulations as new JAO takes effect

Platforms, e-retailers or merchants that sell over the internet are advised anew to follow laws and regulations in the sale, distribution, and marketing of products as a joint administrative order (JAO) stipulating guidelines for online businesses takes effect.

Lawyer Melquiades Marcus Valdez II, director at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Consumer Policy and Advocacy Bureau (CPAB), said JAO 22-01 is not a new legislation but a reiteration of existing laws, rules, and policies which do not distinguish application between brick-and-mortar stores from online stores.

Valdez said laws applicable to “offline” businesses are also applicable to online businesses, including the Electronic Commerce Act facilitating transactions through the use of electronic technology.

“The purpose of the JAO primarily is to build consumer confidence in online transactions because consumer trust will allow businesses to grow and businesses that grow contribute to the national economy,” he said in a webinar.

Valdez said the new JAO provides three calendar days “safe harbor” period for the platforms to take down online posts that are either illegal or violating certain laws, rules, and regulations; otherwise, they will be included in the case that will be filed by the complainant.

“Usually, the complainant says that what the platforms are saying is that they are just intermediary, they have no participation in the transaction of the buyer and the seller, they are just there to provide the venue. However, that is their venue (where) they exercise control in the venue. Once we notify them that there is something illegal that is being posted and they do not do anything about it within three days, it is stated in the safe harbor period, they can no longer use that argument,” he said in mixed English and Filipino.

Valdez said they can have administrative liability and “the implementing agency can proceed against these platforms especially if they continue posting these products online and allowing to sell (on their platforms) those without license or those selling illegal or regulated products without license.”

He added the DTI shall direct and supervise the promotion and development of electronic commerce in the country with relevant government agencies.

Valdez said delivery platforms shall be liable only upon notice that they are carrying or delivering prohibited items.

He said some of these regulated items are medicine, tobacco products, fertilizer, fireworks, and chainsaws.

“Sellers of these products, they must have a permit to sell. For medicines, the seller must have a physical drugstore and a pharmacist…,” he said.

Valdez said JAO 22-01 also reiterates that protected data under the Data Privacy Act of 2012 is only personal data.

However, based on Section 13 (f) of the Data Privacy Act and as per a decision of the National Privacy Commission which was reiterated in JAO 22-01, personal information may be disclosed by platforms and marketplaces “when it is necessary for the exercise or defense of legal claims”, he said.

“The purpose of the JAO is not to make it hard for business to grow but to give trust to electronic commerce,” he added.

Valdez said the JAO also stipulated the granting of benefits and discounts of senior citizens and persons with disabilities.

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