Be involved, organize your consumer organization-A A +A
By Art Tibaldo
Monday, October 8, 2012
OCTOBER is observed annually as the Consumer Welfare Month and this year’s theme is “Get Organized, Be Heard, Be Empowered.” As such, various programs are being orchestrated throughout the month to drum up support from the various sectors particularly the consumers.
One of the things that the local consumer organization called CONSUMERNET is advocating is the creation of consumer organizations from the Barangays, municipalities, cities up to the regional level. Any organized group of consumers duly registered with the SEC or CDA where membership is voluntary and whose primary objective is to protect the public against deceptive, unfair and unconscionable trade acts and practices may be considered a consumer organization (CO).
Once organized, the consumer organization can be affiliated with the Accredited Consumer Organization. The significance of ACO involvement in all matters concerning the consuming public should not be undermined. Each day, all of us avail of products and services in the market and, on occasion, do not get our money’s worth in our transactions. While we are now in a society where there is a rapidly growing business sector and, in effect, greater pressure among their ranks to deliver products and services better than their competition, situations during which consumers are deceived, shortchanged, and bullied into submission by unscrupulous business establishments have also become more frequent of late. And even as the DTI and other agencies with jurisdiction are at the forefront in addressing consumer complaints, it is with the help of ACO’s that resolution of complaints and other issues is facilitated.
The ACO is a way through which the public acquires a voice in policy formulation, consumer redress, monitoring and enforcement. It is the government’s staunch partner in ensuring that public interest is upheld and protected. It is the channel that government offices like the DTI passes through to establish an alliance with the private sector and the people that they serve.
One of the primary aim of the ACO is to undertake programs that addresses the degradation of the environment through education of consumers as one of its most recent top priorities. Dubbed as Green Consumerism, this is an awareness drive that members promote in partnership with the DENR and the other members of the CONSUMERNET, this program further aims to make widespread responsible and ecologically sound practices that would lead towards environmental conservation and protection.
Groups based in municipalities with at least 30 members, or in cities with at least 50 members, may apply for accreditation with the DTI in order to be recognized as local Accredited Consumer Organizations (ACOs). National ACOs have to have one chapter each for Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, and should have at least 75 members. Applications for accreditation at the national level are received by the Bureau of Trade Regulation and Consumer Protection (BTRCP).
DTI accredited consumer organizations may participate in hearings and investigations affecting consumers conducted by administrative and quasi – judicial bodies. They may also be represented in consultations regarding the formulation and implementation of new policies or regulations affecting consumer welfare and protection.
In organizing a consumer organization, the following requirements must be meted; duly accomplished and notarized Application for Accreditation form; certified copy of Articles of Incorporation and by-laws; certified true copy of Certificate of SEC or CDA Registration; updated list of trustees, officers and members and their current addresses; certificate of pre-membership seminar on consumer rights and responsibilities and other documents that may be required from time to time.
These required documents are to be submitted to the DTI Provincial Office where the consumer organization is actively involved. The DTI-PO concerned will then evaluate the application and endorse the same to the DTI Regional Office. The DTI-RO will issue the Certificate of Accreditation after it has determined that all requirements have been satisfied.
The validity of DTI accreditation consumer organization is three years unless sooner cancelled or suspended. As such, ACOs are expected to be of assistance to the DTI in its advocacy and monitoring activities, and to be vigilant in reporting violations of consumer rights to the concerned implementing government agencies. They should also represent consumers in matters pertaining to complaint resolution.
Equally important, all ACO’s are required to participate in the annual celebration of the Consumer Welfare Month, submit price monitoring and semester accomplishment reports to the DTI. With an organized consumer group and vigilant members, we expect an empowered citizenry not only in the area of consumerism but as a nation enjoying the full benefits of democracy.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on October 09, 2012.