By Mario Casayuran
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian has filed a bill to regulate the debt collecting practices of financing and lending companies to protect ordinary Filipino borrowers from harassment and unethical practices perpetuated by predatory lenders.
Gatchalian’s Senate Bill (SB) 1366, “The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act,” seeks to prohibit and eliminate the use of abusive, deceptive and unfair debt collection practices by debt collectors.
He is vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs.
In filing the bill, Gatchalian cited numerous complaints that his office has been receiving about harassments and similar schemes that financing and lending companies and their third-party service providers employ just so they can press borrowers to pay their debts.
In some cases, according to Gatchalian, a collection agent would threaten to disclose the borrower’s indebtedness on social media or make it appear that a formal complaint has been filed against the borrower.
“This measure aims to eliminate, if not minimize, unfair and abusive debt collection practices conducted by debt collectors against consumer-borrowers by providing allowable means to acquire location information of the borrower and enumerating prohibited acts,” he explained.
“It likewise places the debt collector and the consumer-borrower in the same level playing field as the measure provides adequate legal remedies to borrowers who are victims of these wayward practices,” he added.
The bill prohibits debt collectors from harassing, oppressing, or abusing any debtor, as well as use any false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means in connection with the collection of any debt.
Creditors are mandated to keep confidential all borrowers’ data except when there’s written consent of the borrower.
Under the bill, a debt collector must provide the debtor on request a complete accounting of all the details of the debt and, if such an accounting is not in the possession of the debt collector, the agency must request that the creditor should provide it.
Aside from protecting borrowers from unethical and unfair means of collecting debt, the bill also aims to protect those debt collectors who refrain from using abusive debt collection practices and make sure they are not competitively disadvantaged, according to the lawmaker.
The measure proposes a maximum penalty of P30,000 as redress, aside from any actual damage sustained by the borrower.