What are your rights as a consumer? Here's what to do in case of a bad buy
by Sam Gonzales, contributor
As much as we love shopping for makeup, we’ve experienced our fair share of mishaps: broken powders, expired products, dried up formulas, and even botched beauty services. It’s annoying AF but sometimes, stuff happens and things just don’t work out. How do you react when these Series of Unfortunate Events take place? Do you complain and ask for a replacement? Do you suck it up and grieve over the loss of makeup and money? Or do you lawyer up?
We talked to lawyer and Project Vanity's corporate secretary Atty. Maria Concepcion A. Gloria-Rubio to give us a guide on what the law says about our rights as consumers.
Situation: Your skin reacts badly to a product or service
We’ve heard about foreign lawsuits and complaints against cosmetics and skincare companies for things like shady labeling, laser hair removal burns, and making false claims claims, but how would these situations pan out in the PH?
Atty. Gloria-Rubio says that while it is possible to take action over products and procedures that cause injuries, it’s going to be a tough battle. “You would likely be hard pressed to find medico-legal support because medico-legal experts are rare in the country, and it is the experience of the legal community that the medical community tends to avoid testifying on medico-legal matters.” Aside from being hard to find, medico-legal services can be pretty expensive, but it would be difficult to support such claims without their expertise.
Nevertheless, you can and should still take action if you believe that you have been wronged. Gloria-Rubio advises that aside from pursuing court proceedings, you can actually make a complaint at the administrative level. Complaints filed to government agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) won’t cost a centavo, and you won’t be “as tied up by red tape or procedure.”
Situation: The seller refuses to refund or exchange a damaged item
The package you’ve been losing sleep over finally arrived but the powders you ordered are broken! Or you purchase a sealed item only to discover that it’s already dried up or broken when you finally open it up after getting home from the store. Before you allow the mixture of disappointment and anger and sadness to take over, gather the proofs of your purchase (receipts, bank deposit slips, transaction reports. Will the seller replace your item? They should.
According to the Consumer Act of the Philippines, the words “No Return, No Exchange” shouldn’t even be seen anywhere in a store. As long as the product has a defect and the error is on the store’s side, they should replace the product or offer a refund (whether it’s a replacement or a refund depends on the store’s policy).
And if the salesperson tells you that they cannot take your items back, Atty. Gloria-Rubio says that you shouldn’t be dealing with the salespeople. “They have supervisors or managers…there shouldn't be a distinction [between online and in-counter transactions]. The law doesn't distinguish,” and if they still tell you that they can’t (or won’t) take their product back, you can report them to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) or the FDA.
Of course that will work with registered businesses, which brings us to our next dilemma...
Situation: You’ve been duped by an online merchant
It gets trickier when you’re dealing with unregistered online sellers. Seeing as online scams are the most complained about cybercrime in the Philippines, we need to stress that to get out of these situations, don’t place yourself in potentially risky situations to begin with. The DTI warns online shoppers from products that are priced way too low (like the infamous “SG Authentic” makeup), sellers who have poor ratings, sellers who ask you to pay directly to their bank account or money transfer, and websites that have little to no information about their contact details or location. If you absolutely want to purchase something from a stranger, ask for two valid IDs first as proof of identity and make sure to check out our tips for identifying fake products.
But if you’ve already been bamboozled by a seller, report them to the Philippine National Police - Anti-Cybercrime Group*, and hopefully they will get arrested for their dastardly deeds. Atty. Gloria-Rubio also says to warn other buyers by “[rating] them if applicable and posting about the experience.”
And yes, even posting about it on Facebook can help. “Social media has ironically forced companies to pay attention to these matters. If you want instant results, take down names and tell them you'll post on social media,” Atty. Gloria-Rubio advises. The rise of social media has put the pressure on companies to actually respond to your queries and complaints that would otherwise be ignored by customer service, lest they be deemed Undesirable No. 1 by the online community.
It can be quite a hassle but when you purchase a product or pay for a service that fails to deliver, you should always speak up. Aside from helping you to get what you paid for, it improves things for yourself and for others as well. “I strongly advocate customers to seek redress in these situations,” Atty. Gloria-Rubio states. “We are mostly to blame that businesses have such bad customer service. The Filipino concepts of ‘hiya’ and ‘tiis’ contribute to the retardation of business accountability and the ‘puwede na’ mentality. They have cost us our place in the international market for decades, and we're still not up to scrap.”
- Has any of the situations above happened to you? How did you deal with it?
- Do you chalk it up to experience or take steps to remedy the matter?