I am a credit-card holder. My credit card was issued by a bank here in the Philippines but I have not used it for more than a year now after I have fully settled my account. The bank used to send my billing statement through text messages. I am certain that I no longer have unpaid obligations with them as I have not received any more messages from them. I received a call last month from the collecting agent of the bank, asking me to pay P6,000.00.
A week thereafter, I received a demand letter from the same collecting agent, but the letter did not specifically indicate the alleged unsettled amount. It only emphasized that the bank will be forced to litigate if I will not settle the amount that they are demanding. The agent also mentioned that I may be forced to pay additional charges, interests and costs of litigation, and that my NBI clearance will contain a derogatory record for the rest of my life. I would just like to know what I should do about this matter, and what rights do I have if the amount they are seeking to collect has no basis.
Owning and using a credit card carries with it the responsibility of paying the charges made therewith, including the agreed interests and penalties. Since, as you have mentioned in your letter, you have already settled your financial obligations with the bank, we see no reason for you to feel anxious about the matter. Simply inform in writing the collecting agent of the payment that you have made. Attach in your letter your proof of payment so that the agent may be properly guided.
Should the collecting agent insist for you to settle the amount of Six Thousand Pesos (P6,000.00), you may request from him to present the breakdown of the charges, interests and penalties. You may also ask for the list of the items or services, which you may have availed of or any such other bases on which his demand rests. This will aid you in recalling the transactions that you have made or may have forgotten about. Again, if you can establish by actual proof that these transactions have been accounted for and settled, then you should inform the concerned collecting agent.
If the collecting agent, however, is able to prove that you have made transactions using your credit card which you have not actually settled with the issuing bank, then you are obliged to pay for it. It bears stressing that there exists a contract of simple loan or mutuum between you, as the credit-card holder, and the issuing bank, whereby you receive a loan of money or any other fungible thing, acquire ownership thereof, but with the accompanying responsibility of paying the latter an equal amount or value (Article 1953, New Civil Code of the Philippines). Should you fail to settle the amount that is due, the bank, through its collecting agent, may resort to filing a civil case against you in order to compel you to pay the charges, penalties, interests, and even costs of litigation.
But insofar as placing derogatory information in your National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) record, the bank must first file a criminal case against you and probable cause must be adequately determined. While Republic Act 8484, or the Access Devices Regulation Act of 1998, penalizes a credit-card holder, the imposition of penalty must be by reason of the commission of any of the forms of access device fraud mentioned under Section 9 thereof, which in general deals with producing, possessing, transacting, using counterfeit or unauthorized access devices, unauthorized disclosure of any information imprinted on the access device, obtaining money or anything of value through the use of an access device, with intent to defraud or with intent to gain and fleeing thereafter, unauthorized alteration on the sales slip and unauthorized presentation to the credit-card member, for payment, evidence of transactions made by credit card. If you have not committed any act that is tantamount to an access device fraud or any other criminal act for that matter, then a criminal case may not be filed against you and derogatory information may not be placed in your NBI record.
We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org