June 17, 2024

The Insider News

Direct from the source

House probe prompts Starbucks to lift senior discount cap

A HOUSE inquiry ordered by Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez has prompted popular coffee chain Starbucks to lift the cap it has imposed on the 20-percent discount senior citizens and persons with disability (PWDs) are legally entitled to.

Angela Cole, who identified herself as operations director of Starbucks Coffee, told the House committee on ways and means this morning that they were acknowledging their “mistake” and that they have ordered the “immediate removal of the erroneous signages.”

She said the signages, in which Starbucks restricted the legally-mandated discount to “one food item” and “one beverage,” “was not properly worded.”

Cole made the announcement at the start of the hearing of the committee chaired by Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda on gaps on the implementation of laws on discounts, privileges and other benefits for senior citizens, PWDs and solo parents.

Speaker Romualdez, the principal author of the law expanding the benefits for seniors and PWDs, ordered the inquiry upon receiving complaints on the failure of establishments to comply with relevant laws.

One such complaint was about Starbucks’ limitation of the application of the 20-percent discount.

Speaker Romualdez, the leader of the 300-plus-strong House of Representatives, also took cognizance of a case filed by the Pasig Prosecutor’s Office against a big hotel in the city, which failed to grant an elderly customer the mandated discount.

Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, who is the complainant’s counsel, identified the respondent establishment in the course of the hearing as Marco Polo Hotel-Pasig.

“We are expecting arrest warrants to be issued today (Wednesday) against responsible hotel officers,” he said.

Cole’s announcement elicited a statement from Rep. France Castro of ACT Teachers Partylist that Starbucks would not have rectified its error had Speaker Romualdez not ordered the inquiry.

For his part, Parañaque City Rep. Gus Tambunting said, “Salamat sa ating Speaker. Sana mabawas-bawasan na ang pang-aagrabiyado sa ating mga senior citizen at PWD.”

Salceda asked Rustan’s Coffee Corp., the local Starbucks licensee, to address its mistake “substantially by making a buy-one-take-one offer to senior citizens and PWDs, like buy one croissant, take one beverage.”

“You violated the law. Saying sorry is not enough. We will consider initiating prosecution,” he told Cole, who promised to communicate Salceda’s request to her principals.

Salceda said he received a similar complaint against bakery products chain Goldilocks, which is allegedly limiting the 20-percent discount “to one slice for every cake.”

“We will look into this as well,” he said.

In the case of the Marco Polo Hotel-Pasig case, he said hotels should extend the 20-percent discounts to their senior citizen and PWD customers, whether their prices are promotional or regular rates.

“The application of these laws should be universal,” he said.

He added that the discounts should also be extended by online sellers, including airline companies.

“I know that Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific have options on their websites for elderly passengers to avail themselves of the discount,” Salceda said.

Macalintal said hotels should grant the discount when their customers check in even if their accommodation was booked through booking websites.

“The customer is not a party to whatever contract the booking site and the hotel have,” he said.

Macalintal also proposed that the previous discount granted to senior citizens and PWDs for using the expressways and skyways be restored.

Salceda said his committee would recommend remedial legislation or regulation to address gaps and confusion in the implementation of laws on discounts, privileges and benefits for senior citizens, PWDs and solo parents.

“The Speaker wants us to scrutinize compliance with these laws by business establishments and service provides and ensure their proper and effective implementation,” he said.