Non-payment of ‘plastic’ debt not tantamount to violation of the law

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Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
I made several transactions last February 2016 using the credit card that I applied for when I was still working in Makati City. Unfortunately, I was fired from my last job, leaving me in a bad financial situation. Until now, I am unable to pay my credit card obligations. I have received several calls from a collections agent threatening me with a lawsuit. He said I will be imprisoned for violation of Republic Act 8484 if I don’t pay the bank immediately. Is this true? I am really overly stressed right now. I am doing my best to find another job but I am really having great difficulty landing one. I hope you can advise me.
DJ

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Dear DJ,
A person who avails of the use and benefits of a credit card essentially binds himself to a contract, particularly a contract of simple loan ormutuum. Under the law: “A person who receives a loan of money or any other fungible thing acquires ownership thereof, and is bound to pay to the creditor an equal amount of the same kind and quality” (Article 1953, New Civil Code of the Philippines).

Accordingly, it is safe to suppose that when you applied for the issuance of your credit card, you knew fully well that you have bound yourself not only to receive the privileges of the credit accommodation, whereby you are allowed to make purchases of goods or services upon presentation and use of such card, but also with the incumbent obligation to repay or reimburse the bank/credit card company an amount equal to what you may have consumed or utilized once the same becomes due and demandable.

Corollary, it is but expected of the bank to demand from you the settlement of your unpaid financial obligation given that you are still unable to settle the same up to this time. In fact, it is not an uncommon practice for institutions like banks and credit card companies to have their employees or collections agent, verbally or in writing, communicate with the credit card holder once the debt of the latter falls due. This is an extrajudicial means commonly elected by creditors to resolve such contractual predicament.

If a debtor is still unable to settle his outstanding obligations despite repeated demands, the creditor has the option of filing an appropriate case in court. Suitably, your issuing bank has the right to institute a civil case against you for collection of sum of money if you merely failed to pay your financial obligation with them. As you are bound to pay, in consonance with your contract and the law, they may seek recourse before the proper court.

But filing a complaint against you for violation of Republic Act (RA) 8484, or the Access Devices Regulation Act of 1998, it may only be lawfully instituted if they can establish that you have committed any of the unlawful acts constituting as access device fraud enumerated under Section 9 thereof, such as, but not limited to, the use of one or more counterfeit access devices, use, with intent to defraud, an unauthorized access device, use of an access device fraudulently applied for and possession of one or more counterfeit access devices or access devices fraudulently applied for. These and the other unlawful acts specifically mentioned under Section 9 of the law carries with it the penalty of fine and/or imprisonment. Should they fail to establish the same, then there is no reason for you to be held criminally responsible under RA 8484.

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 dearpao@manilatimes.net.

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