So when businessman Chris Tan claimed on Twitter that a Boracay convenience store tried to charge him a P15 additional fee for his P20 bottled water purchase via GCash, Twitter users argued for and against such practice.
Some users defended the practice, saying that establishments or even delivery riders who receive GCash instead of physical money for cash-on-delivery (COD) transactions ask customers for a convenience fee because there's a cash-out fee when withdrawing real money from the app.
Some users also argued that while they understand the need for a convenience fee, it's unfair to charge customers for every single transaction as cash-outs or bank transfers are usually done in one go.
Sending money via GCash's Express Send, Send with a Clip, Ang Pao, or even via Request Money or KKB as long as it's from GCash to GCash is for free. Cashing out via over-the-counter outlets will be charged a 2% withdrawal fee, while cash out via bank will also incur an ATM withdrawal fee of P10 to P18.
What the BSP, DTI say about GCash
To clear the confusion, let's define GCash in the eyes of regulators. According to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, it is a government-supervised electronic money issuer (EMI), and that Philippine pesos stored in it is called e-money, a digital version of real or fiat money, meaning it is considered legal tender.
The Department of Trade and Industry in April 2021 issued guidelines on payment options, including electronic fund transfers, to ensure consumers' access to different forms of payment for products and services. It said that consumers can pay in cash, in installment or a combination of both when making a purchase.
"There should be no additional charge on the selling price if the mode of payment is through debit/credit/prepaid cards, QR codes, electronic fund transfers, or other digital means available, as preferred by the buyer," the DTI said.
Consumers also have the right to choose the mode of payment for the goods and services they plan to avail , the DTI said, warning sellers to comply to avoid being penalized.
"This means that merchants cannot refuse the acceptance of payment over GCash and cannot charge more than what they charge to consumers who pay with paper money. Payment of legal tender is regulated by law and people can be sued for non-acceptance of legal tender," lawyer Jesus Falcis said in a tweet.
"To be crystal clear, merchants must accept GCash payments if they already have GCash set up and there must be no additional charges. If they don’t have it set up yet, then they’re not forced or required to accept payments through it," Falcis said.
Under the Consumer Act, those who fail to comply will be fined up to P10,000 or imprisoned for a period of five months to one year, or both, depends upon the court's discretion, the DTI said.