Love online shopping? DTI has tips to avoid scams

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) while recognizing the contribution of online shopping to an active economy, cautions buyers against fraud and scams when shopping online.

DTI-3 Director Judith P. Angeles said that just like any selling platform, the Internet is not devoid of unscrupulous individuals who would take advantage of others in a selling activity whether goods are sold face-to-face or online.

Director Angeles also cautions consumers to be wary of online sellers that have no business name, address, help desk, live chat or contact details.

“Consumer rights are not diluted or lessened just because the transaction is done online, Article 50 of the Consumer Act considers practices as deceptive when there is false representation or manipulation in a sale or transaction” she added.

At present, DTI is pushing for laws that protect the rights of consumers who transact online. DTI Undersecretary Victorio Mario Dimagiba reported that the agency has proposed amendments to the Consumer Act, expanding consumer protection measures which include online shopping and e-commerce transactions.

Republic Act No, 8792 or the E-Commerce Act, strengthens the recognition of online transactions as valid legal transactions. Republic Act No. 10175 or the Cybercrime Act enhances consumer protection by considering illegal acts committed through the internet as crimes punishable by law, whether the person is registered at DTI or the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or is not registered as a seller.

The Department of Justice Office of Cybercrime came up with an Advisory on April 30, 2015 cautioning consumers on the prevalence of online illegal acts such as: frauds and scams, misleading or deceptive product advertisements, difficulty in returns and replacements, unexpected transaction costs and surcharges, privacy breaches and abuse of user data and chaotic delivery procedures.

The advisory said that consumers should consider the following “red flags” of an online shopping fraud:

1. Products are advertised at very low prices compared to other websites

2. Online sellers which have poor ratings or feedback

3. Online sellers ask buyers to pay by money transfer direct to their bank account instead of a preferred payment method

4. Website do not have contact details such as a physical address or telephone number

5. Website have little or no information about privacy and terms and conditions of use