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Can senior citizens avail of discounts on services at promotional rates? Lawyers weigh in

By Melanie Uson Published Nov 21, 2023 9:48 pm

A five-star hotel in Pasig City is now facing a criminal complaint after allegedly refusing to apply a senior citizen discount, claiming that its rate was already "on promo" without showing proof that it's DTI-approved.

As stated in the complaint affidavit, complainant Melinda Rada checked into the establishment with her senior citizen sister on Nov. 25, 2022. On the day of their check-out on Nov. 27, she asked for a 12% VAT exemption on top of 20% off, citing benefits as a senior citizen. The hotel, however, denied her request, saying that the accommodation they availed was already at a promotional rate. 

Her counsel, Atty. Romy Macalintal, shared on Erwin Tulfo’s radio show earlier this week that they asked the hotel staff whether the promotion was approved by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) pursuant to R.A 7394, but they weren't able to show any proof. Rada, then, insisted on the discounts. 

Macalintal said they had sent the establishment a demand letter regarding the request, alongside conditions that included requiring the hotel to post notices on senior citizens and PWD entitlements, advising the Philippine Hotel Owners Association of these benefits, and donating P250,000 to the senior citizens’ organization of their choice for the damages they caused for allegedly denying discounts on unapproved promos.

The Pasig hotel again declined it and instead offered them an overnight stay and breakfast for two. The complainant rejected the offer, stressing that the demand wasn’t for personal benefits, but for all guests who also experience the same scenario. 

Rada decided to file a suit against two executives of the hotel before the Pasig Prosecutors Office last week.

Senior Citizen's Law and the Consumer Act of the Philippines

Atty. Carlo John Pascual told PhilSTAR L!fe that the case specifically concerns the Republic Act No. 9994 or the Expanded Senior Citizen Act of 2010. This law offers benefits and privileges to senior citizens “such as discounts, free services, exemptions, incentives, government financial assistance, and priority in express lanes.” 

The case also concerns Republic Act No. 7394 or the Consumer Act of the Philippines, which provides “protection to consumers against hazards to health and safety, and deceptive, unfair and unconscionable acts and practices in sales.” 

Under this law, Atty. Kenneth Manuel said that the hotel should have secured a prior permit from the DTI, as stated in Article 116. He explained that discounts arguably fall under the sales promotion definition of “techniques purely intended to increase the sales of a product.” 

If proven that the hotel did not secure a DTI permit for its promo, then a double discount, which is a full 20% off in addition to the promo offered by an establishment, can still be availed. 

It would have been different, however, had they secured a permit. According to Manuel, this falls under Section 4 of the Expanded Senior Citizen Act of 2010, which states that double discounting is prohibited. “Accordingly, the law does not provide for simultaneous availment of incentives, unless the establishment, at their own discretion, allows,” said Manuel. Senior citizens, in this case, can choose whichever discount is higher and more favorable for them. 

Although the Senior Citizen law does not qualify that promotional discounts must be registered with the DTI, Manuel said it can also be subject to interpretation alongside other laws—in this case, the Consumer Protection Act. (with reports from Brooke Villanueva)