“That must be taken into account.”
Filipino consumer behavior and culture has changed so fast since the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted our comfort zones. Things were so different three decades ago when we were just starting to use analog cell phones and internet access was very slow and limited. Computer technologies then operated with dial-up speeds that sometimes dropped as low as 21 kbps. Megabits per second (MBPS) speeds and even the concept of “cloud computing” were still decades away.
When the confinements started, we learned to use all these e-commerce applications in our smartphones which became an indispensable device to access all telecommunications and online services to carry on, communicate, work, study and yes, even play .
Even before the pandemic, among my smartphone apps, one of the most useful was the ride-sharing service Grab. It has become a convenient and safe alternative to driving through wild city traffic to get to the next business meeting. We didn’t know how to hold online meetings back then. It saved me a lot of stress and it’s actually a viable option to use your car considering the wear and tear, fuel and parking costs. Now it has become a go-to app for ordering food, groceries, shopping, delivering and receiving packages, over-the-counter medications, booking hotels, insurance coverage, and more. A rather amazing development which, in the end, is good for us consumers.
The speed of innovations like this is even accelerating as each new technology builds on the gains of the latest release and makes things even more efficient and faster, which then creates new opportunities for new technologies. . However, the reality of compliance with the regulatory and policy environment of governing bodies cannot keep pace and is often a resisting force that technology-driven companies must live with due to the slow human pace of change. and opposing bureaucratic thinking.
Here is an interesting case. If you are a Grab user, runner or one of their partners, you might have heard about the issue of penalties totaling 25.45 million pesos that the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) has ordered to Grab to pay due to the “extraordinary price discrepancies” committed in 2019 and 2020. As of March 21, 2022, only 21% had been reimbursed and approximately 19 million pesos were still awaiting reimbursement. The CCP has set a deadline of April 22 to refund the remaining amounts by automatically crediting via GrabPay Wallet.
Apparently, Grab passengers who qualify for the one or two peso discount have no interest in bothering to check the Rewards section of the Grab app for a refund. Well, who would be? The remaining 19 million pesos sounds big, but when reduced to a ridiculously small peso per qualified customer, the energy and time just isn’t worth it.
In an interview with TeleRadyo, Grab Public Affairs Manager Booey Bonifacio clarified that only users who booked Grab Car rides from August to October in 2019 are eligible for this refund and although they comply transferring the refund to the corresponding GrabPay wallets, there is a problem for users who have not activated their GrabPay wallets. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Regulations on Know Your Customer (KYC) e-wallet platforms require customers to submit information to verify their identity prior to activation of their GrabPay wallet. Personally, I don’t need the wallet function because my Grab account is linked to a credit card, and I certainly wouldn’t bother activating it for a peso refund.
So here is the disconnection of CCP policy ordering automatic refund without any act of qualified users to claim on one side and BSP requirements on the other. Grab submitted a memorandum to the CCP last month suggesting alternative solutions and is still awaiting approval from the anti-trust body.
I understand the need for a government institution to follow its mandate and rules, but the unique circumstance of this case requires a Solomonic solution that would consider options that would result in maximum benefit. Although it seems fair to issue the refund to the legitimate recipients, there really is no value in receiving a peso. Creative thinking is needed, such as donating the remaining amount to Grab drivers as fuel aid or donating to a worthy charity will have a just impact.
This reveals the lack of government digital preparedness that needs to be addressed. The challenge for all policy makers, agency heads, agents and employees in government is to unlearn the very linear and rigidly slow bureaucratic culture and transform into a more digital mindset that embraces dynamic thinking with a focus-centric perspective. people who aims to get the country ready to thrive in a global digital economy as soon as possible.