While consumers are constantly reminded about Halloween and the coming Christmas season, they hear or read little about the fact that October is supposed to be the time to highlight and remind everyone about their welfare.
As in previous years, I got no information linked to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) when I Googled Consumer Welfare Month. What I got were stories about previous years’ observance. I had to learn from a Department of Energy press release that this year, the theme of the month-long observance is “Consumer Protection: A Shared Responsibility.”
Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi was quoted saying that the monthlong celebration aims “to fully realize the protection of the rights and welfare of every consumer, with particular focus on supporting our underprivileged and underserved kababayan.”
The Department of Energy is currently holding a forum on consumer-related topics. Invited to the forum, which ends tomorrow, Oct. 20, are the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) to discuss Kuryente Load, a prepaid electricity system, and Net Metering, which supports renewable energy development at the household level; Consumer Rights for Safe Food (CRSF), to discuss genetically modified organisms and its effect on humans and animals; and Sun Life Financial Philippines, which will conduct a free financial planning seminar for participants.
But it seems that DTI, the agency which should be at the forefront of the campaign, is doing very little to promote the idea. Has Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez or any high-ranking DTI official issued any statement on Consumer Month? I did not see any when I went online. It may be on the DTI webpage but there does not seem to be any media story.
I am sure there will again be tarpaulins in government agencies proclaiming their support for Consumer Month. But do commercial and business establishments know about it? Have they been asked or are they doing anything special to honor consumers?
I have not seen any indication that big malls, for instance, are aware this is Consumer Month. They are all agog over Halloween and some have even started putting up Christmas decorations, events that persuade consumers to spend and spend.
Review of laws
There is one promising development for the often ignored consumer, however Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri has announced a review of some consumer-related laws, such as the Anti-Red Tape and Lemon legislations.
Zubiri was quoted saying that improvements would be considered and laws promoted. He noted that not many Filipinos know, for instance, that there is a Lemon Law, which aims to protect new car owners from being stuck with a vehicle with factory defects.
Zubiri should also consider reviewing the Consumer Act of the Philippines or Republic Act No. 7394, which was passed in 1992. Since the law was enacted, so much has changed in the way consumers interact with businesses and commercial establishments.
Online shopping, for instance, is growing tremendously and there have been many complaints about faulty products, safety and security, etc.
I understand that being able to exchange or return what you bought, when and if you change your mind, is actually more of an additional service offered by establishments and is not a right provided for in the Consumer Act, which provides redress only for defective products and services.
Perhaps the new law should also address that issue to minimize nasty exchanges among customers and establishments.
Zubiri should try to get as much feedback from consumer groups and individual consumers in reviewing existing laws.
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