Commentary

PM is key, or the requirement of online sellers indicating the prices of goods sold

When you are the potential buyer from an online store or entity in a website such as Facebook’s Marketplace, don’t you just hate it when instead of being presented the price for the goods being advertised, you are instead asked to send a private message (PM) to the seller to ask for the price?

My friends who are into online selling justifies this tactic by claiming that this is a form of respect for other online sellers. The logic is that, if you are scouting for products to buy, you might just go straight to the seller with the lowest price. This seller might have re-sellers who would have to add their own markup and those reflect higher prices.

I was asked by a friend as to the legal aspect of this.

The applicable law in question for those sellers who are based in the Philippines is Republic Act No. 7394, the Consumer Act of the Philippines. Article 81 of the said law sets the requirement for a price tag: “It shall be unlawful to offer any consumer product for retail sale to the public without an appropriate price tag, label or marking publicly displayed to indicate the price of each article and said products shall not be sold at a price higher than that stated therein and without discrimination to all buyers xxx”

Retail sale is direct selling to consumers (i.e. not selling in bulk), and the act of online sellers in platforms such as Facebook’s Marketplace falls under retail sale. While indeed it is true that the Consumer Act was enacted when such platforms were not yet contemplated, the law itself did not limit itself to known platforms and systems at the time it was approved. Thus technologies subsequent to it, such as Facebook’s Marketplace platform, are covered by it.

Article 81 of the Consumer Act also did not limit itself to physical stores.

Thus, the answer to my friend’s query is: Yes, online sellers are required to include in the post itself the price.

As to how the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) would enforce the law, however, that would be a different question.

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