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Online Complaint Software for Consumer Rights Implemented by Philippine Government

Due to limitations on physical movement that are imposed amidst the pandemic, more Filipinos are turning to digital channels for transactions and shopping for necessities and other commodities. Some consumers claimed that they were not given sufficient customer care support either making a transaction or receiving an item that has been purchased. This led to a “significant” increase in the number of consumer complaints related to online transactions in 2020 till today compared to previous years.

To address this, The Department of Trade Industry (DTI), through its Consumer Policy and Advocacy Bureau (CPAB), had announced that they will begin the pilot run of the online complaint software to boost up the country’s improved online system to receive and resolve consumer complaints.

The highest number of complaints of 8,045 were during the months of April and May when the strictest level of Community Quarantine was in effect in major areas of the country. Due to the limited movement of people, consumers heavily relied on online shopping for their basic and essential needs.

The online system will be piloted by the DTI and will eventually serve as the Web-based consumer complaints portal of the country. The online complaint software will automate the entire consumer complaints-handling process of the government by interlinking all the member agencies of the Consumer Network (ConsumerNet), or the group of government departments with consumer protection function, to provide redress to those consumers who will file a complaint through the system wherever they may be in the world.

To operationalise the system, the online complaint system will undergo three phases, including assessment; functional specifications and workshop; and compliance with data privacy, security, risk management and systems development.

The first phase is the development and operationalisation of consumer complaints filing, tracking, ageing, reports generation, and status updating to be put by the DTI. Phase two is the development of virtual mediation conference and possible online resolution of complaints and Phase 3 is linkage with the online complaint system for effective resolution of cross-border consumer complaints.

The DTI is responsible for ensuring that the process of handling and resolving consumer complaints and disputes is streamlined and harmonised through the online system, as well as providing dedicated channels of communication for easy access to consumer queries and complaints, such as but not limited to telephone, e-mail, and social media platforms. When executing and implementing such a system, there must be checks and balances in place so that, as consumers and consumer groups, can act as watchdogs and ensure that the process is completed effectively, efficiently, successfully, and on time.

The system also aims to maintain the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of personal data stored via the online complaint system, as well as strict compliance to the Philippines Data Privacy Act of 2012.

Many businesses have discovered that deploying a software application to track complaints from submission to resolution is the most efficient way to do so. Considering complaints are sensitive, having a software tool allows companies to outline procedure and then focus on keeping customers happy and safe while protecting the company’s reputation and compliance status. Not only would companies profit from implementing these techniques but so would the country’s digital sector and its economy would be improved.

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