Myla’s mobile phone has been ringing off its expensive leather case since she clocked in for work. When people around her started staring at her musical bag where the sound seemed to be coming from, she reached inside the bag, flipped the leather cover of the phone, and calmly tapped the volume icon on the screen. The ringing was reduced to a low, successive hum-buzz. Problem solved.
The call was coming from a credit card collector; those people tasked to get debtors with overdue accounts to pay their obligations and pay them in full. Myla used to take their calls graciously. She had been asking for a reasonable payment term for her credit card bill meantime that she is still unable to make the full payment of Php 67,000.00. The collectors agreed to her request but slammed her monthly payments with enormous interest rates! When Myla differed, they began calling her at all hours of the day, even during weekends. They even found a way to get a hold of Myla’s home landline number; they spoke to Myla’s senior citizen mother and told her that if Myla continues to ignore their phone calls, they will have her apprehended by cops and detained in prison.
Are credit collectors free to pursue debtors any way they deem necessary?
While creditors are entitled to payment and are at a liberty to demand from their debtors, they must not cross the lines that govern credit card operations of banks and affiliate credit card companies. They must observe legally permissible means to encourage payment from debtors. To protect the interest of the general public, the Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) issued Circular No. 454 which covers, in detail, the definitions of Unfair Collection Practices and how such collection must be conducted by banks and their collection agencies.
Below are excerpts on this particular regulation, lifted exactly from the said BSP document, describing in detail what are considered as unfair collection practices.
- The use or threat of violence or other criminal means to harm the physical person, reputation, or property of any person.
- The use of obscenities, insults, or profane language which amount to a criminal act or offense under applicable laws.
- Disclosure of the names of credit cardholders who allegedly refuse to pay debts, with certain exceptions.
- Threat to take any action that cannot legally be taken.
- Communicating or threat to communicate to any person credit information which is known to be false, including failure to communicate that a debt is being disputed.
- Any false representation or deceptive means to collect or attempt to collect any debt or to obtain information concerning a cardholder.
- Making contact at unreasonable/inconvenient times or hours which shall be defined as contact before 6:00 a.m. or after 10:00 p.m., unless the account is past due for more than sixty (60) days or the cardholder has given express permission or said times are the only reasonable or convenient opportunities for contact.
Can I be imprisoned because of my debts?
According to a Filipino financial adviser (and you’ve probably heard this from other veteran credit card holders), no one has gone to jail because of unpaid credit card bills. This does not mean that you are free to ignore your unpaid debts; remember, you are obligated to settle your accounts sooner than later. And although you won’t end up in prison, your credit score will be negatively affected the longer you leave your accounts unpaid. Estafa, on the other hand, is a different case and is not covered by this article.
How do I get these abusive collectors off my back?
Apart from finally settling your overdue accounts, you may rid your phone of “unwanted callers” by reporting abusive collectors to the BSP Financial Consumer Protection Department at 02 – 708 – 7087 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Any form of abuse must not be tolerated and the BSP has ensured that due respect must be afforded to debtors even in the process of collecting the needed settlement from them. We are likewise enjoined to uphold the law by being responsible with our financial obligations, especially those made with banks, lending companies, and the like.