NTC orders Facebook Marketplace, Lazada, Shopee to stop sale of SMS blast machine

Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 13 2021 09:41 AM | Updated as of Oct 13 2021 09:31 PM

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MANILA (3rd UPDATE) - The National Telecommunications Commission has ordered e-commerce platforms Lazada, Shopee, and Facebook Marketplace to immediately stop the sale of SMS blasting devices after an emergency alert was sent while presidential aspirant Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. was filing his certificate of candidacy last week.

The NTC issued a cease-and-desist order for each of the said platforms, asking them to appear before the commission on Oct. 27. 

"The NTC has not authorized the importation, manufacture, sale/distribution, or type approval of the above-mentioned equipment," it said.

The sale of text or SMS blaster machines and similar equipment "appears to violate" the Radio Control Law and other regulations such as the NTC's Memorandum Order 01-02-2013 or the Prohibition of Portable Cellular Mobile Repeater and Portable Cellsite Equipment, the agency said. 

It said the e-commerce platforms must explain in writing within 15 days why it should not be held liable for violations and why the said "violative" products should not be subject to confiscation or forfeiture.

In a statement sent to ABS-CBN News, Shopee said it does not allow its platform to be used for the sale of prohibited items and that the SMS blasting machine was an "isolated case."

Listings of the said items have been removed upon notice while preemptive measures were also put in place to intercept similar attempts to sell such products, Shopee said. 

"We require all sellers to comply with applicable regulations and our platform policies. All listings on Shopee must go through a series of screenings, and listings that violate regulations or Shopee's terms of use will be removed," the platform said. 

Shopee urged users to report listings of violative items using the "Report this Product" option. 

Lazada has also removed the highlighted product on the NTC report, a Lazada Philippines spokesperson told ABS-CBN News.

A daily manual sweep is conducted to ensure products that violate existing policies are identified, the platform said, adding that "strong action is also taken against sellers found breaching our platform's terms and conditions."

"Lazada supports the Philippine government's commitment to build a trusted eCommerce economy that protects consumers and businesses and we will not hesitate to take strong actions against parties found involved in illegal activities that are against local laws and our company policies," Lazada said. 

Facebook, meanwhile, said that they would remove unauthorized listings in their platform, which goes against the country's laws. 

The social media giant also vowed to cooperate with authorities. 

“Our commerce policies require people to comply with relevant laws and regulations when buying and selling on Marketplace," the statement read. 

"When we receive a report from the appropriate legal authority about unlawful content, we will review and take appropriate action.”

The NTC earlier said it was looking into the emergency text alert which appeared to promote Marcos, son and namesake of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, on his presidential bid.

Emergency alerts are used to warn citizens of disasters such as earthquakes, typhoons and tsunamis as well as other official and urgent communication from authorized government agencies such as the the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

The camp of the late dictator's son has denied that it was involved in the emergency alert. 

Globe Telecom’s Technology and Strategy Service Integration head Manny Estrada earlier said devices that can be used to send location-based text blasts while bypassing carriers are being sold online. 

“These are standalone equipment… and you actually deploy it in an area where you need to broadcast emergency messages even when there are no telco networks already available."

Estrada said the devices, which are sold online for as much as P10 million, are supposed to be regulated.

Several groups have filed a petition in the House of Representatives to investigate the use of emergency alerts in campaigning for the elections.