The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has issued an opinion that the 20 percent discount granted to senior citizens under Republic Act 9994 is “over and above” the discounts offered and sold by an establishment to their clients under its paid-for membership or privilege cards.
Its position was contained in a letter-opinion dated October 15, 2014, through Gerald Calderon, officer-in-charge of the DTI’s Consumer and Trade Policy Division, and addressed to Ponce Enrile Reyes & Manalastas Law Offices— lawyers for Sofitel Hotel— in answer to the offices requesting opinion on the issue.
The request stemmed from a case filed by senior citizen-lawyer Romulo Macalintal against Sofitel Hotel that according to him refused to grant him his 20 percent discount as a senior citizen over and above the 50 percent granted him as a member of Sofitel’s Accor Advantage where a member, like Macalintal, paid an annual membership fee of P8,800.
Macalintal, in a statement, argued that the 50 percent discount was by virtue of his contract with Accor while the 20 percent is a benefit granted to him by law as a senior citizen. If the 20 percent discount is already covered by the 50 percent Accor discount, then what he only gets from Accor was 30 percent and it is practically Accor enjoying his 20 percent discount. Sofitel, through its lawyer, said extending both discounts to Macalintal would violate the provision of the law prohibiting “double discount.”
While the case was amicably settled by Sofitel and Macalintal, part of the settlement agreement was that both parties would seek the opinion of the DTI on the issue. Thus, on August 15, 2014, Sofitel’s law firm wrote the letter to the DTI with the concurrence of Macalintal.
In its opinion, the DTI clarified that “the prohibition on double discounting is applicable only when the giving of discount is for the establishment’s promotion [and]a DTI permit is applied and secured before an establishment can proceed with its promotional scheme.”
Macalintal said “since the Accor card is not a promotion approved or permitted by the DTI, then the double discount provision does not apply. This DTI opinion should now serve as a wake-up call, if not a warning, to hotels and eateries with paid-for privilege cards not approved by the DTI that even with the discount under such cards, the senior citizen is still entitled to his 20 percent senior discount.”
He added that the opinion could be taken as “a landmark ruling, which validates and confirms my oft-repeated position that even if an item or service is claimed by an establishment to be ‘on promo,’ a senior citizen is still entitled to his 20 percent discount if such ‘promo’ is not approved or permitted by the DTI.”