FOR allowing the sale of illegal cigarettes even to minors, e-commerce platforms like Shopee and Lazada have incurred the ire of the House Ways and Means committee chief.
Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda said he will file a bill that would block them.
Salceda said an “outright ban” on e-commerce platforms is necessary to curtail the proliferation of illegal cigarettes as they have made these items more accessible to the public, worse, even to minors.
“We will block Lazada and Shopee once and for all for selling cigarettes to minors and not collecting the right taxes because they have the responsibility under the registration that they should be withholding agents also, and they are not doing that,” Salceda told reporters in an interview on Tuesday.
“We will definitely go after them. They allowed it. They have accountability and responsibility for the products that are sold through their platforms,” he added.
Salceda said they are already drafting the bill what would implement such stringent measure.
Nonetheless, Salceda challenged e-commerce platforms like Lazada and Shopee to “prove” that they can “pre-select” their merchants.
“We have been monitoring them. I am challenging Lazada and Shopee to come out,” he said.
Salceda said he would also tap the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to look into the sale of cigarettes through Facebook’s Marketplace.
Salceda explained that his staff was able to access fake cigarettes across various online channels, including e-commerce platforms and Facebook.
“We succeeded with unbelievable ease. From online shopping websites, we were able to see unstamped cigarettes sold in the open at prices less than half those of licit counterparts,” he said.
Salceda said his team found out that brands like H&P Gold were being sold at P380 per ream while President and Two Moon retailed at P399 in the online channels.
“Online shops categorize them under everything from ‘Asian herbs’ to ‘T-shirts.’ In the review page, buyers indicated that they bought these cigarettes for their sari-sari stores, indicating that the purchase of these cigarettes online is meant for resale to the retail market,” he explained.
“We also tried to buy on Facebook marketplace. Again, in the open, illicit cigarettes are sold. San Marino, Casablanca, Cannon, Fort, and Bravo brands sell for P350 per ream. Modern, Hotjoy, and J&J sell for P450 per ream. For comparison, a ream of Marlboro reds is at around P1,750,” he added.
Salceda added that fake premium brands are “becoming easier to come by” as they are being sold at half their legitimate price in the same online shopping sites that they looked into.
“In other words, in every segment of the market, and in practically every venue for selling, illicit cigarettes are extremely easy to come by,” he said.
“There is no challenge to buying these brands. And they sell at as low as 1/5th the price of licit cigarettes. Walang kalaban-laban ang matino [The compliant can’t compete],” he added.