MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice has issued a public notice for those who have suffered harassment and illegal debt collection practices from online loan companies.
The justice agency’s Cybercrime Office has received reports that some online lending companies (OLCs) have engaged in “unfair debt collection practices and cyber harassment” when those who have borrowed from ‘they or the debtors have not paid.
These include accessing the debtor’s contact list and sending them messages in the event of delay or non-payment; posting their personal information online to shame them; threatening them with death or physical injury or again using vulgar language towards debtors and their references to shame them.
“This public notice is published to inform the public of the measures to be taken when they are the victim of unfair collection practices committed by OLCs,” he said. A notice will also serve as a warning to online loan companies not to engage in illegal debt collection acts.
Republic Law 10175 or Cybercrime Prevention Law 2012: When the online loan company accesses the phone book or contact list of debtors to send them messages, “they are accessing a computer system without rights”, a felony under section 4 (a) (1) of the anti-cybercrime law. .
The cybercrime office said that while debtors can initially consent to the OLC’s mobile app, consent is limited to matters aimed at helping the business process the loan and nothing more.
OLCs who resort to public and malicious imputation of a vice, fault or crime such as “magnanakaw, patay gutom or estafadora” positions may also be held liable for computer defamation or Article 4 (c) (4) of RA 10175.
RA 10173 or the Data Protection Act 2012: OLC accessing the contact list of debtors to send messages is punishable under Articles 25 and 28 of this law.
Article 25 punishes the unauthorized processing of personal and sensitive information with imprisonment and a fine of up to 4 million pesos. Article 28, meanwhile, stipulates that processing personal information and sensitive personal information for unauthorized purposes will be punishable by imprisonment and a fine of up to P2 million.
OLCs posting online their debtor information obtained through a loan application to shame them can be held liable under section 31 of RA 10173 which punishes malicious disclosure.
Revised Criminal Code: Online lending companies may also face violations for serious or light threats, or serious or light coercion, or in connection with the Cybercrime Prevention Act 2012.
The Cybercrime Unit explained that if a debtor is threatened with death or physical injury and / or is the subject of a public disclosure of personal information online with a caption “crook”, this may be subject to serious threats. Since the threat was committed through information and communications technology, the crime is one degree higher than predicted by the CPP.
Securities and Exchange Commission Memorandum Circular No.18, 2019 series: This circular prohibits unfair debt collection practices and provides that for collection, finance companies and loan companies must keep borrower data strictly confidential, except in certain circumstances.
Violators can face a fine of P25,000 up to P1 million or suspension of lending activities. The certificate of authorization to operate can also be revoked, the DOJ-OOC said.
What to do now?
If illegal acts have been committed, the justice portfolio advises the following actions:
File complaints with the Office of the Prosecutor. In the event of unauthorized access to the directory or the contact list; use of the threat to harm a natural person, his reputation or his property; or the use of obscenities and insults posted online – and they know the identity of the offender – they can file a complaint with the prosecutor’s office where the crime may be committed.
These acts are punishable under the Cybercrime Prevention Act 2012 or the revised Criminal Code.
Look for the NBI or PNP cybercrime teams. If the said acts were committed against them but they are not sure of the identity of the attacker, they can file a complaint with the National Bureau of Investigation-Cybercrime Division or the Police Anti-Cybercrime Unit. Philippine National.
These government agencies may conduct an investigation following their filing.
Check with the National Commission for the Protection of Privacy. In the event of malicious disclosure of personal information or sensitive personal information, and when the guarantors or co-creators are contacted, they may file a complaint with the privacy watchdog.
Report to government agencies. The authorities stressed that complaints can be filed simultaneously.
Victims of illegal debt collection practices are also encouraged to report the online loan company to the PNP-Anti-Cybercrime Group, NBI-Cybercrime Division, NPC and the Securities and Exchange Commission. – Kristine Joy Patag