Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has filed a measure which seeks to allow consumers the preferential option to secure billing statements and other transaction documents either in printed or electronic form without additional cost to them.
De Lima filed Senate Bill (SB) No. 2194 seeking to amend certain provisions of Republic Act No. 7394, or the “Consumer Act of the Philippines,” to protect consumers from deceptive practices of service providers and promote their general welfare.
“The consumers have the right to be properly informed of their full details of the transaction and for them to be charged a premium cost for this information is a violation of this right which can ultimately lead to fraudulent behavior on the part of the sellers,” she said.
Based on news reports, Filipino consumers who chose to be billed in the traditional way are required to pay for the release of their paper bill usually at PhP50 every month by service provider giants Globe and PLDT Inc.
Using their stance on supposed support for environmental sustainability and preservation as among the reasons, telecom giants PLDT and Globe moved from the traditional to digital billing despite surveys revealing that consumers still opt to print their bills at home.
De Lima pointed out that the mandatory e-billing imposed by the Energy Regulatory Commission and some local service providers masquerading as a pro-environment advocacy is only meant to pass the printing costs of billing statements to the consumers.
“Requiring consumers to move from paper to electronic billing becomes merely a ploy of the service providers to shift the burden of paying the costs of printing and mailing the billing statements to the consumers and is not entirely about the preservation and conservation of the environment as they primarily claim,” she said.
“There is a need to improve existing legislation, especially R.A. No. 7394, to strengthen and reinforce its fundamental purposes of shielding the interests of the consumers, promoting their general welfare and establishing ethical standards of conduct for business and industry,” she added.
While going paperless is deemed as a method to solve environmental problems, the former justice secretary noted that certain scientific studies show that the paperless campaign contributes to increase in carbon emissions and global warming.
Citing a report from British daily newspaper The Guardian, De Lima noted that “[u]ntil more research has been done on the life-cycle and environmental impact of electronics, pitting paper and e-media against each other is somewhat futile” and that “There is a place for both paper and e-media.”
Under SB No. 2194, De Lima, who chairs the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, proposed that billing statements and other transaction documents may be sent in printed or electronic form at the option of, and without any additional cost to the consumers.
“The consumers’ right to select the mode in which they receive their billing statements and other transaction documents may not be conditioned on the value of the products or services provided in the transaction,” she pointed out. In January 2018, De Lima filed Senate Resolution No. 588 urging the appropriate Senate committee to probe the said mandatory electronic billing imposed by ERC and several service providers which obviously takes advantage of Filipino consumers.