Steaming controversy: What to know about food-related seniors’ discounts | Inquirer News

Steaming controversy: What to know about food-related seniors’ discounts

By: - Content Researcher Writer / @inquirerdotnet
/ 11:26 AM January 30, 2024

Steaming controversy: What to know about food-related seniors’ discounts


(Second part)

First part: Senior citizens’ discount: Stirring debate over what’s right, wrong


MANILA, Philippines—In the ever-buzzing world of social media, a single snapshot has whipped up a whirlwind of debate and discussion on senior citizen discounts, casting a spotlight on a major coffee franchise’s recent policy tweak.


The now-retracted change announced by a Starbucks branch in the country —  which narrowed down the senior citizen discount to only one food item and drink per visit — has sparked not just chatter among the public but a full-blown legislative scrutiny.

READ: Starbucks sorry for signage limiting seniors’ discount

Public reactions to the incident were mixed: some supported the coffee shop’s now withdrawn policy, citing cases of discount exploitation or misuse. In contrast, others, including legislators, delved deeper, challenging the equity of such restrictions and calling for a more thorough investigation.

In addition to varied responses from the public, numerous individuals sought further understanding and clarification about the laws that provide discounts to senior citizens.


Under Republic Act (RA) No. 9994 (Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010) along with its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR), and RA No. 10754 (Act Expanding the Benefits and Privileges of PWDs), senior citizens and persons with disability (PWDs) are given a 20-percent discount on top of their exemption from the 12-percent value-added tax (VAT) on certain goods and services.

READ: DTI to boost implementation of senior citizen discount


To address these common inquiries, consulted with lawyer Jeanne Pauline Dumaual, who specializes in human rights and environmental law, for expert insights on these important legislations.

Q: Are there any restrictions that restaurants or food vendors can place on senior citizen discounts, such as limiting them to one food item and one beverage per order?

Dumaual: “No such restriction was worded both under RA No. 10754 and 9994.”

She clarified that these laws simply state that the discount applies to food items personally and exclusively consumed by the PWD and/or senior citizen.

“Although the laws may appear to be oppressive to businesses, it was ruled in Carlos Superdrug et. al. v. DSWD, et. al., that, as a form of reimbursement, the law provides that business establishments extending the 20 [percent] discount to senior citizens may claim the discount as a tax deduction,” she said.

Q: Is it possible to apply senior citizen discounts to orders that consist of multiple meals? In the case of large orders (e.g., food for more than two people, including a senior citizen), how should restaurants or food vendors apply the 20% discount?

Dumaual: Section 4(a) of RA No. 9994 states that senior citizens are eligible for a 20 percent discount and, if applicable, exemption from value-added tax (VAT) on the purchase of various goods and services from all establishments.

However, it also noted that the discount applies “for the exclusive use and enjoyment or availment of the senior citizen.”

Article 7, Section 3(d) of the IRR of RA No. 9994 explains that the phrase “exclusive use and enjoyment” of the senior citizen shall mean “for the senior citizen’s personal consumption” only.

“This is where the problem of the law’s implementation comes in. Since the parameters of the law are not clear, the restaurants and service establishments are given leeway to limit what can be ‘personally and exclusively consumed’ by the PWD/senior citizen.”

“On one hand, you can’t usually expect a single individual to consume a meal that has a serving good for 12 people, but on the other hand, it is also possible for a single individual to consume [two] pastries and [two] cups of coffee in a single visit.”.

She suggested that it’s crucial to release clarifying regulations or guidelines to guide the public, aiming to benefit both consumers and service establishments.

Q: Are restaurants or food sellers permitted to offer a standardized amount as a senior citizen discount instead of a percentage?

Dumaual: “No, they are not. If they do, they would be in violation of the IRR of RA 9994 and the BIR’s Revenue Regulations 07-2010.”


Q: In a scenario where one senior citizen is paying for a meal for a group of seniors, is it necessary to present all their senior citizen IDs to avail of the discount for the entire group?

Dumaual advised that all senior citizens in the group should present their identification cards

“If there’s something clear about the law, it’s that the senior citizen ID must be presented in order for the discount to be applied.”

Q: Are meals that are already discounted or part of a promotional offer eligible for additional senior citizen discounts?

Unfortunately, food items or meals that are already discounted are not eligible for further senior citizen discounts, “granted that these promotional offers are registered with the [Department of Trade and Industry] (DTI).”

Dumaual referenced a DTI ruling from October 2014, which stated that the rule against double discounting applies only to promotions officially registered with the agency.

Q: What is the frequency with which a senior citizen can avail of the discount at the same restaurant in a single day?

“No limits are specified under the law. Thus, the senior citizen/PWD can avail of the discount for every separate purchase they have with the establishment.”

Q: Do senior citizen discounts extend to food orders made through online or home-based food businesses?

Dumaual: “Yes, they should.” She cited the IRR of RA No. 9994, which defines a restaurant as “any establishment duly licensed and with business permits issued by the local government units, offering to the public, regular and special meals or menu, fast food, cooked food, and short orders.”

“More often than not, orders made on [food delivery services such as] FoodPanda or Grab are sourced from establishments covered by the definition. Thus, the PWD/Senior Citizen Discount should also be applied in the same light.”

Q: Are there any penalties for senior citizens who are discovered to be misusing the discount privileges as stipulated by current laws?

According to Dumaual, Section 7 (c) RA 9994 states that anyone found abusing the privileges under the law faces a penalty of imprisonment for no less than six months and a fine ranging from fifty thousand pesos (Php50,000.00) to one hundred thousand pesos (Php100,000.00).

“An example of abuse is if and when someone tries to claim discounts, even if the person is not a senior citizen or a PWD.”


Senior citizen files suit after being denied discounts on ‘promo’ with no DTI approval

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