If President Benigno S. Aquino III signs into law a bill authored by his cousin, Sen. Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino, establishments can no longer avoid giving the exact change or offering candy or something else instead of cash.
Under the bill, which the legislature’s bicameral conference committee has endorsed for ratification by both the Senate and the House of Representatives, establishments will be penalized if they give insufficient or no change, or give customers candy or other items in lieu of money.
The bill, to be known as the “No Shortchanging Act,” aims to protect consumers and promote the continued professionalization of micro, small and medium enterprises.
Sen. Aquino, chair of the Senate Committee on Trade, Commerce and Entrepreneurship, said his bill would require tags that reflect the exact prices to ensure that customers were not shortchanged. He said giving consumers what they were due, down to the last centavo, would breed a culture of precision and fairness in Filipino businesses.
First-time violators will have to pay a P500 fine. A second offense can result in a three-month suspension of the establishment’s license to operate, along with a fine of P15,000. On the third violation, the establishment’s license will be revoked, plus a fine of P25,000.
The press release from Sen. Aquino’s office did not say anything about customers, who sometimes feel it is beneath them to accept coins as change. Major store chains try to give consumers their exact change, but people look upon coins with disdain, throwing away or refusing to accept 5-, 10-, even 25-centavo coins.
Even the neediest people, street children and beggars, feel insulted when given coins. I often stop to pick up coins I see on the street. As I have mentioned before, I fear that one day the tabloids will carry a story saying a woman was hit by a jeepney as she stopped to collect a 10-centavo coin.
Right now, the minimum jeepney fare is P7. Senior citizens, students and persons with disability entitled to a 20-percent discount should be paying only P5.60.
Will any driver accept the exact amount? He may condescend to accept P5.50, which includes two 25 centavo coins. But a 10-centavo coin?
Actually, those entitled to discounts actually pay P6. But it is not just the driver’s fault that they are unable to fully enjoy their discounts, because they themselves fail to assert their rights as consumers by refusing to carry small coins as if these are disease-carrying metals.
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas regularly gives the assurance that there are enough coins for everyone’s needs. But both establishments and consumers do not want them.
In every opportunity, I remind people that making a 5-centavo coin probably costs more than five times its value.
It is ironic that Filipinos, who should value every centavo, do not have respect for coins. In developed parts of the world like North America and Europe, coins are valued. Even men carry coin purses so they can pay the exact amount, or have a place to keep the change they get.
Among our Asian neighbors, the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, there is also a greater respect for coins.
That is probably why they are more developed while we continue to struggle to eliminate poverty. They know that coins are made using the people’s taxes, and throwing them away is equivalent to wasting valuable resources.
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