PALO, Leyte – The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is now implementing a harmonized mediation and arbitration procedures in a bid to enhance the handling mechanism of consumer complaints.

DTI regional director Cynthia Nierras said that all consumer complaints under DTI jurisdiction will be resolved within seven working days through mediation. Cases that are escalated to arbitration will be decided within 20 days after filing.

“This is to provide speedy redress on consumer’s complaints regarding violations of various products and marketing standard laws,” Nierras said.

Under the new rule, the seven-day mediation will include one day for notification and schedule of mediation, five days for mediation conference, and a single day for preparation and signing of compromise agreement.

“We will require complainant and respondents to present position paper immediately so we can easily resolve cases,” Nierras told Leyte Samar Daily Express.

For talks that fail through mediation process, the DTI is targeting to complete arbitration proceeding within 13 days.

In 2012, the DTI has collected P144,500 worth of fines from 59 establishments in Eastern Visayas from violations of Standards Law, Price Tag Law, Sales Promotion, and Labeling Law.

“Complaints on defective products are the most common cases in the region. Retailers can repair, replace, or refund,” she added.

Results of the 2012 Pulse Asia Survey cited by the DTI, revealed that only 30 percent of Filipinos are aware of consumerism, however 55 percent of them cite the right to choose, return, or exchange products.

Eastern Visayas has only three arbitrators, but the trade department has instructed them to cover Biliran, Eastern Samar, Northern Samar, Western Samar, Southern Leyte and Leyte to accommodate all complaints.

“We urged consumers vigilant in reporting violations of retailers and manufacturers for them to be able to exercise their rights,” Nierras said.

The region has seven organized consumers organizations based in the provinces of Leyte, Samar, Biliran, Ormoc City, and Northern Samar.

“The number of provincial organizations is not enough to empower consumers but this is already enough to start with. We are hoping that more consumers will join the group,” she added.

The trade department gathered all consumer groups yesterday for a symposium to commemorate the World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD).

The symposium comprised of a mini-workshop and discussion on identified consumer welfare topics such as proper handling and filing of consumer complaints, Fair Trade Laws, and accreditation and membership of consumer organizations.

“This is meaningful to us because we are working to revitalize, strengthen and empower consumer organizations in the country,” Nierras added.

The WCRD was first observed on March 15 1983, and has since become an important occasion for mobilizing consumer action.

The celebration’s theme “Consumer Justice Now!” is aligned with the Consumers International objective in promoting the basic rights of all consumers. (Leyte Samar Daily Express)