Giving exact change

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Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
I just started my small water-refilling business. I mainly sell purified water to households in our area. I bought it from its previous owner who is leaving to work abroad as an OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker). I just learned from neighboring establishments that a lot of the customers then had problems with the previous owner because he did not give exact change. They warned me to be cautious about this practice because some customers might just pursue a complaint if I will end up being like the previous owner.

Is it really possible for someone to be called out for not giving exact change? If so, what important details should I know as I start my business? Your advice will be highly appreciated. Thank you and more power.
Bes

Dear Bes,
In contracts of sale, the seller obligates himself to transfer the ownership and to deliver a determinate thing to the buyer, and the latter obligates himself to pay a certain price in money or its equivalent (Article 1458, New Civil Code of the Philippines). Now, if the buyer pays an amount that is more than the agreed price, it then becomes incumbent upon the seller to give to the former his change. For the seller to keep or refuse to return such change is tantamount to unjustly enriching himself. We have to bear in mind that under the law, “certain lawful, voluntary and unilateral acts give rise to the juridical relation of quasi-contract to the end that no one shall be unjustly enriched or benefited at the expense of another.” (Article 2142, Id.)

Apart from these tenets, the obligation of providing the exact change to consumers has been given more emphasis under Republic Act (RA) 10909 or the No Shortchanging Act of 2016. This law provides:

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“Sec. 4. Regulated Acts. – It shall be the duty of the business establishment to give the exact change to the consumer without waiting for the consumer to ask for the same.

(a) In General. – It shall be unlawful for any business establishment to shortchange a consumer, even if such change is only of a small amount. x x x”

Failure to comply with the foregoing places the seller at the risk of being a subject of a complaint before the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and, if proven to have committed infractions, he may be meted out penalties specifically mentioned under Section 6 thereof.

For your guidance, Section 1, Rule IV of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 10909, states the duties of the sellers or business owners:

“It shall be the duty of the business establishments to:

1.1 Give exact amount of change to the consumer without waiting for the consumer to ask for the same. The cashier or staff clerk or their equivalent, of the business establishments shall count the change in front of the consumer and place the same on the hand of the consumer or on the change tray, whichever is applicable;

1.2 Use price tags, when appropriate, indicating the exact retail price per unit or service which already includes the taxes applicable to the goods or services being offered. x x x

1.3 Issue Official Receipts or Sales Invoices, as may be applicable, to the consumers;

1.4 Put signs in conspicuous places within the establishments or reflect in the Official Receipts or Sales Invoices issued, the taxes incorporated in the retail price per unit of goods or services;

1.5 Post notices in every counter to ensure/remind their cashiers to give exact amount of change e.g. “Please demand your exact change” or any language or literature to such effect; and

1.6 Provide the DTI documents on gross sales for the day of the concerned business establishment and other pieces of evidence that are material in the determination of any alleged violation of the provisions of this Act and its IRR. x x x”

We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.

Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to dearpao@manilatimes.net.

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