Environmental and consumer protection group EcoWaste Coalition has released a 12-point list of tips to assist online shoppers in avoiding products that can pose hazards to human health.

The practical tips espouse safety consciousness among shoppers who are expected to visit popular e-commerce sites, which are now conducting pre-Christmas sales, to avail of attractive bargains and deals.

“As more Filipinos opt for online shopping amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we see the need for improved consumer ability to assert their rights and protect themselves,” said Thony Dizon, chemical campaigner at EcoWaste Coalition.

He said that while online shopping is accessible, convenient and safer in this time of public health emergency, there are many “threats lurking online” that shoppers need to be cautious about, such as deceptive advertisements, scams, and adulterated, counterfeit, and hazardous products.

The group urges online shoppers “to be mindful of these tips to avoid picking and paying for products that can put their health and safety at risk.”

The group suggests consumers to familiarize themselves with online shopping guidelines, including ways to avoid fraud and pointers on eco-friendly shopping to cut down on waste and pollution.

To reduce plastic use, waste and disposal, sellers need to reduce their packaging requirements and online shopping platforms need to regulate unnecessary plastic packaging, according to EcoWaste Coalition.

Here are some tips that will protect online consumers against hazards to their health and safety:

1.  Do some basic research before making any purchase (ask a friend, critically read customer reviews, and check the Internet for public health warnings, recall advisories, and the like).

2.  Carefully read the product description and do not be misled by over-the-top and unsubstantiated claims.

3.  Be inquisitive; don’t be shy in asking the seller as many relevant questions as you would like about the product.

4.  Examine the product photo and detect indicators for bogus or imitation products such as low quality image, logo discrepancy, and other inconsistencies with the original item.

5.  Beware of these typical red flags: inadequate product information, labeling in foreign characters, poor quality photos, grammatical mistakes, misspellings, wild claims, unresponsive sellers, etc.

6.  Be skeptical about extra low prices, huge discounts, and offers that are too good to be true.

7.  Avoid products misusing the logo of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the Philippines or the USA on their packaging or product marketing and promotion.

8.  Avoid buying toy and childcare articles that are not notified with the FDA.

9.  Be cautious about toys that pose health and safety hazards such as those that contain small parts, button batteries, small magnets, long cords, lead paint, and other toxic substances.

10.  Shun personal care and cosmetic products not notified with the FDA.

11.  Do not purchase medical devices and supplies lacking proper authorization from the FDA.

12.  Refrain from buying medicines online; buy them from FDA-licensed pharmacies instead.