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  • Getting Harassed By Online Lenders? What The Law Says You Can Do

    There are three ways to take action against them.
    by Dahl D. Bennett .
Getting Harassed By Online Lenders? What The Law Says You Can Do
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  • There are many reasons people turn to online lending apps for money. Unfortunately, some companies that run these apps resort to harassment to get lendees to pay their debt. This was the case of one citizen who borrowed money from an online lending app.

    Addressing a question to Atty. Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno through his Facebook page Atty. Chel Diokno Free Legal Helpdesk, the citizen asked if there is a law that protects borrowers from being "harassed" by online lenders to the point of threatening their life

    In full, the sender’s message reads: “(Nangutang) po ako sa online lending app. Alam ko po na malaki ang interes nila kaso wala na po ako talaga malalapitan. Hindi ko po siya nabayaran kasi lalo lang po akong nabaon sa utang. Ngayon po, lahat ng contact ko sa cellphone, nag-message po sila at meron pa pong nananakot na ipapatay po nila kami.”

    Diokno, who currently serves as chairman of the Free Legal Assistance Group or FLAG, said it is always better to have the terms of lending and payment in writing for such transactions.

    “Dapat klarong klaro ang lahat ng terms. Mas maganda pa nga kung nakasulat yan, para kung magkaroon ng misunderstanding ay madali natin maayos ang problema.”

    How to take legal action against abusive online lenders

    When it comes to the law, Diokno cites three ways a citizen may be able to take legal action against online lenders:

    File a complaint with the National Privacy Commission

    With regards to the lendee’s private information, Atty. Diokno referred to the Data Privacy Act, a law that seeks to protect all forms of information, be it private, personal, or sensitive.

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    ”Itong datos na ito ay magagamit lamang para sa mga layunin na sinangayunan natin. Ang National Privacy Commission (NPC) ay siyang ahensya na may mandatong siguraduhing na nirerespeto ang ating privacy pag dating sa personal at sensitive personal info.”

    He adds that on September. 14, 2020, the NPC released Circular No. 20-01, which prohibits online lending firms from using the contacts of their customers.

    “Tahasang pinagbabawal ang online lending firm na mangolekta at gumamit ng mga contacts ng mga customer nito. Kasama dyan ang pangalan at numero mula man sa cellphone o social media.

    “Higit pa, pinagbabawal ang paghaharass sa mga customer nito gamit ang information mula sa contact. Puwede kayong mag file ng complaint sa National Privacy Commission dun sa nangyayari sa inyo.”

    File a complaint of grave threat

    Under the Revised Penal Code, threatening a person’s life is considered as a grave threat, which is a crime under the law, says Diokno. “Maari niyong i-report ito sa PNP anti-cyber crime group or kahit sa NBI anti-cyber crime unit,” he advises.

    File a complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for unfair debt practice

    Harassing a borrower to the point of threatening his/her life may be considered an “unfair debt practice,” which is not allowed under the law.

    Quoting SEC Memorandum Circular No. 18 Series of 2019, Diokno says lending companies may be penalized for such acts.

    “Maaring patawan ang multa ang kumpanya mula Php 20,000 hangang Php1M or i-suspend o i-revoke ang ang kanilang permiso o permit na gumawa ng lending services” (Such violation may be reported to the SEC at this email: cgfd_md@sec.gov.ph.)

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    “Maari niyong sabay na gawin itong mga report na ito dahil iba’t ibang aspeto naman ng situation ninyo ang nireregulate ng (iba’t ibang) ahensya,” he advises.

    It will also help to check legitimate online lending platforms registered under the SEC through this link before making any lending transactions.

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