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And now, a word from the ‘konsyumer’

CONSUMERLINE - Ching M. Alano () - February 21, 2006 - 12:00am
Dear Consumerline,

I recently visited a doctor (a specialist) to have my sinus checked. This was my first time to visit this doctor in the medical center of our city. After a brief examination and medical inquiry, the doctor wrote a prescription and brought out a box of medicine that he said I could use for my allergy. Before the end of the session, he said that the medicine costs P500. I assumed I was to pay for both the medicine and the consultation fee to the secretary, but before I could leave, he reminded me that I should pay for the medicine to him and his consultation fee to his secretary. At this time, I was a bit confused but decided to pay for the medicine anyway.

Everything went well until I got home and realized that the doctor had sold me a professional sample which was also labeled "Not for sale." After asking a different doctor about this, I found out that doctors are not supposed to sell samples, but some patients ask to buy samples at a cheaper price. I compared prices with Mercury Drug and found out that the P500 I paid was actually cheaper than the drugstore price of P715 for another brand. I also found out in a local online article that this (selling of medical samples) is not an isolated incident and often happens in provinces where medicine is scarce. While I don’t doubt my doctor’s capability or his earnest desire to cure me, I have, however, begun to doubt the ethical implications of the situation.

I made a follow-up call to the doctor about this and he said that he buys those samples so he can sell them to patients at a cheaper price. He also said that if I have a problem with the product, I could return it and he would willingly give me a refund. If he had disclosed this information to me in the first place, I probably would have had less of a problem with it.

If selling drug samples is a common practice, then I am not alone in my confusion (as a patient). What I’d like to know is: Is it legal to sell professional samples to patients or consumers? Isn’t this unethical? What can or should consumers and patients do when this happens? – Concerned Patient


To spare this concerned patient further agitation, nay, migraines, here’s what the Department of Trade and Industry says: Under Section 26 of RA 5921 (An Act regulating the practice of pharmacy and setting standards of pharmaceutical education in the Philippines and of other purposes), no sample of any drug, biologic product, proprietary medicine, given or intended to be given for free to the physician and other qualified persons by any manufacturer or distributor or its representative or detailman as part of its program of promotion, may be sold. Violation of the said provision shall be penalized in accordance with Section 2 of Executive Order 174 amending Section 40 of RA 5921. 

To file a complaint, write to Secretary Francisco T. Duque III, Department Of Health (DOH), San Lazaro Compound., Rizal Avenue, Sta. Cruz, Manila.
* * *
Dear Consumerline,

I’d like to make a query re the 20 percent discount for senior citizens. My in-laws went to a restaurant in Banawe, Quezon City and ordered some food worth P300+, and presented their senior citizen ids. They requested my in-laws to sign on the receipt, and so they signed. But when they returned the receipt, there was no deduction so they requested for the 20 percent discount to be deducted. After another round of computation, they just deducted P20 rather than the 20 percent. Surely, P20 is totally different from 20 percent. My father-in-law requested to talk to the manager, but he was out. According to them, it is their policy to give a P20 discount only. Whatever happened to the 20 percent discount for senior citizens as stipulated by law? Another question: Is the 20 percent discount for dine-in only or for take-out orders as well? – Arnel De Leon


Dear Mr. De Leon:


Section 4, Privileges for the Senior Citizens, of Republic Act 9257, also known as the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2003, states, "The senior citizens shall be entitled to the following: the grant of 20 percent discount from all establishments relative to the utilization of transportation services, hotels and similar lodging establishments, restaurants and recreation centers, and purchase of medicines in all establishments for the exclusive use or enjoyment of senior citizens, including funeral and burial services for the death of senior citizens.

In view hereof, the policy covering the senior citizen discount is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) through the Policy and Planning Office with tel. no. 931-8130. With regard to complaints, you may directly coordinate with the Office of Senior Citizen Affairs (OSCA) of the Local Government Unit (LGU) where the restaurant is located.  

In addition, the DTI has implemented a Department Administrative Order (DAO) No. 03 series of 2005, providing five percent senior citizen discount for basic necessities and prime commodities covered by retailers such as corporate, partnership or individually owned supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience and mini-convenience stores, shops, and bakeries. For further information, visit the DTI website, http://business.gov.ph for the copy of the said DAO or call the Bureau at 751-0384 local 2224 (look for Tina Lubrio).  – Victorio Mario A. Dimagiba, Director

The foregoing complaints are just a couple from a mountain-high heap of letters that Konsyumer Atbp. has been receiving since it started airing on February 19, 2005.

A year after its maiden broadcast, this consumer education radio program of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Philippine Product Safety and Quality Foundation (PPSQF), and ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation is still the consumers’ active voice as it tunes in on their daily woes.

For the past year, Konsyumer Atbp. which airs over DZMM 630 kHz every Saturday at 10 to 11:30 a.m., has been educating its listeners on product safety and quality, consumer and intellectual property rights. Likewise, it has been promoting Filipino ingenuity through its five segments: Batas ng Konsyumer, Bantay Bilihin, Consumer 101: School on the Air, Strictly Pinoy, and Ugnayang Konsyumer.

On its first anniversary, Konsyumer Atbp. will have a special remote broadcast on Thursday, Feb. 23 at the Eusebio High School in Pasig City, from 7 a.m. to 12 noon.

It promises to be a bright day for the Eusebio High School students as the Department of Energy and the Philippine Lighting Industry Association conducts its Palit Ilaw program to change the school’s lights into the more energy-efficient compact fluorescent lights – all for free!

Trade Undersecretary for Consumer Welfare Zenaida Cuison Maglaya, who heads the group spearheading Konsyumer Atbp., says students are a significant target audience of the radio program because the people behind Konsyumer Atbp. believe in educating consumers while they are still young. Which is why Konsyumer Atbp. has partnered with the Department of Education through the Consumer 101: School on the Air segment.

Undersec Maglaya asserts, "Young people have a tremendous influence on the buying habits of their parents. When students are educated to distinguish between quality and shoddy goods, they can tell their parents, ‘Mom, Dad, don’t buy that product, it didn’t pass government safety tests because it doesn’t have a PS or ICC mark,’ for example."

If the text messages the program receives in every episode are anything to go by, Konsyumer Atbp. is definitely getting through to its listeners. Much to the delight of its program hosts – Palengke Queen Winnie Cordero and Atty. Adrian "Che" Cristobal, former trade undersecretary and now director-general of the Intellectual Property Office.

Winnie notes with great relish, "During the first season, we were mainly getting rants from listeners – all complaints. But now, we get messages saying they know how to look for the PS and ICC marks to get quality and safe products. They know how to demand for a replacement when the defect persists after several repairs. Even sellers text us saying they now know that they should allow customers to exchange or return defective products."

The tenor of complaints has also matured. Says Atty. Che, "Listeners now ask for advice on the proper course of action for the problems they have encountered, meaning, they ask us which agency to file their complaint with. There’s a sense of responsibility, that the consumers themselves are willing to act to remedy their problem, because now they know what to do."

And so, as Konsyumer Atbp. goes into its fifth season beginning March 4, it will continue advocating consumer empowerment through education – not only for consumers to become aware of, but to exercise and assert, their rights and responsibilities.

Right on, Konsyumer!
AN ACT ATBP DEAR CONSUMERLINE DEPARTMENT OF TRADE AND INDUSTRY DISCOUNT EUSEBIO HIGH SCHOOL KONSYUMER KONSYUMER ATBP SENIOR
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