Despite DTI’s Action, Online Sale of Fraudulent Products Containing Mercury Remains 

16 June 2023, Quezon City.  The toxics watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition deplored the continued sale by online merchants of unauthorized cosmetics contaminated with mercury, a perilous chemical banned in cosmetics such as skin-lightening products.

“Despite being flagged for fraudulent sales, the unabated trade in online shopping platforms of unauthorized skin-lightening products known to contain mercury continues as if selling such health-damaging whiteners is not a fraudulent act,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

Among the unauthorized products sold online are Goree Beauty Cream with Lycopene and Goree Day & Night Beauty Cream from Pakistan, which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned in 2017 for containing mercury above the permissible limit of one part per million (ppm).

Goree and other Pakistan-made beauty creams with mercury content.

Last June 5, Trade and Industry Secretary Alfredo Pascual through a letter gave “two big e-commerce platforms” 72 hours to explain the occurrence of fraudulent sales that online consumers are complaining about and “to remove unregistered and unlicensed online merchants.”

Republic Act  No. 7394 (Consumer Act) and No. 8293 (Intellectual Property Code) and the Joint Administrative Order No. 22-01, Series of 2022 (Guidelines for Online Business Reiterating the Laws and Regulations Applicable to Online Businesses and Consumers) prohibit deceptive, unconscionable and unfair online sales and practices.

While the names of the “two big e-commerce platforms” were not revealed, it is public knowledge that Lazada and Shopee are the biggest online shopping sites in the country.

“I assure Filipino consumers that we are here to promote and protect their welfare and make sure that these sellers will be made accountable. As we promote the use of e-commerce platforms, we want to make sure that these spaces will be safe for consumers,” he added.

The EcoWaste Coalition welcomed Pascual’s assurance to uphold the rights of online consumers, which include the right to information, right to safety, and right to redress, as well as the right to a healthy environment, among other rights, and to make those who disrespect these rights liable.

“To make online shopping safe for consumers, e-commerce platforms must ensure that only safe products are listed and sold by local and foreign sellers,” added Lucero.  “Health products such as cosmetics with no valid certificates of product notification have no place in legitimate online business.”

“While online shopping giants disallow the use of their platforms to sell prohibited products such as those banned by the FDA for lacking market authorization and/or for containing mercury, banned products are easily obtainable online,” she observed.

“Skin whiteners containing mercury are hazardous to health, and are illegal to manufacture, export or import in line with the Minamata Convention on Mercury,” she pointed out.

The FDA has repeatedly warned that the use of unauthorized cosmetics may pose health risks to consumers, warning such products may be adulterated with banned or restricted ingredients or contaminants like mercury.

“The use of substandard and possibly adulterated cosmetic products may result in adverse reactions including, but not limited to, skin irritation, itchiness, anaphylactic shock and organ failure,” the FDA warned.

“We hope DTI will also support our advocacy to make online shopping mercury-free and co-lead a campaign with the FDA and other stakeholders to halt the sale, online and offline, of mercury-contaminated cosmetics,” concluded Lucero

Examples of online product listings for mercury-containing Goree beauty creams as downloaded on 15 June 2023: (search words: beauty cream pakistan) (search words: beauty cream pakistan)

EcoWaste Coalition