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AANZFTA Consumer Affairs Programme Strengthens Product Safety and Cyberspace Investigations in the Philippines

ASEAN , 01 December 2021

Manila, 15-16 November 2021 – This week, the Philippines’ Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Consumer Protection Group (CPG) and Regional Operations Group (ROG) enforcement and monitoring personnel participated and completed an online training workshop on Product Safety and Cyberspace Investigations. The two-day workshop was part of the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA) Consumer Affairs Program (CAP) bilateral technical cooperation activities delivered by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), under the auspices of the AANZFTA Economic Cooperation Support Programme (AECSP) and in cooperation with the ASEAN Secretariat.

The participants studied international best practices in product safety and monitoring and investigating online sellers for product safety compliance. The ACCC investigators and product safety experts shared practical knowledge and techniques, including information on the ACCC’s role in delivering the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Product Safety Sweep and how the ACCC engaged with digital platforms to design and implement the Australian Product Safety Pledge. The ACCC also shared information on recent real-world product safety investigations into online sellers.

Atty. Ruth B Castelo, Undersecretary of the Philippines DTI-CPG, delivered a welcome message during the training, saying that, “DTI have seen the COVID-19 pandemic greatly restrict the movement of consumers. And as a result, e-commerce has played a major role in meeting consumer needs. Consumers have come to rely on e-commerce platforms for compliance with product safety laws.”

“The DTI CPG and the ROG personnel will take many lessons from the workshop as it was organized to provide the Philippines with practical insights and international best practices relative to the online monitoring and enforcement of products particularly on concerns raised by consumers on issues involving its quality and safety arising from online transactions”.

The DTI is entrusted to ensure consumers have access to safe and quality goods and services. Workshops such as this mean that the DTI is always learning from international best practices and growing to be stronger enforcers of consumer protection.

After the two-day interactive workshop, DTI attendees reported they had improved their skills and gained new insights into the areas presented in each session, including how to gather evidence from online sellers and international examples of best practices for online product safety. 

ACCC Executive General Manager, Consumer Product Safety Division, Mr Tim Grimwade, praised the DTI attendees and noted he looked forward to future cooperation. Mr Grimwade said: “the workshop was designed specifically to share insights into how to improve product safety online through different compliance and enforcement initiatives and to assist in targeting new concerns arising in e-commerce in the Philippines following the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This was the largest Consumer Affairs Program workshop we have ever delivered. We are thrilled by the number of DTI participants who were able to attend and participate in such active discussions. Protecting consumers from unsafe products empowers them to purchase confidently, thereby promoting efficient and competitive markets. Since the inception of the AANZFTA CAP, the ACCC has worked diligently to support peers across the region to develop their expertise and capability to implement product safety laws. We look forward to collaborating with our DTI colleagues again and seeing the DTI demonstrate the learnings of this workshop through their work,” he added.

Closing the workshop, Mr. Looi Teck Kheong, Head of Competition, Consumer Protection and Intellectual Property Rights Division of the ASEAN Secretariat, observed that, “the AANZFTA CAP has worked for a year now to develop and lead several innovative opportunities for the members of the ACCP to connect with AANZFTA consumer protection agencies and build consumer protection capabilities. We are excited about future opportunities developed by the AANZFTA CAP to provide engagement with partner organisations in this priority area.”

The AANZFTA CAP Product Safety and Cyberspace Investigations training workshop came about through a bilateral technical cooperation request from the Philippines’ DTI to the ACCC. CAP will continue to facilitate bilateral technical cooperation events with the members of the ASEAN Committee on Consumer Protection (ACCP), building consumer protection in the AANZFTA region, with an outlook to COVID-19 recovery, the ASEAN High-Level Principles on Consumer Protection, and the ASEAN Strategic Action Plan on Consumer Protection.

For further information, please contact the AANZFTA Support Unit at aanzfta_inquiry@asean.org or the AANZFTA CAP Team at cap@accc.gov.au.