I am a credit card holder from a certain local bank here in the Philippines. I used the credit card only for emergencies and necessities. A family emergency came up, however, thus I was unable to pay my credit card bill. I admit that this was entirely my fault. A year has passed and my bill has ballooned due to interests and penalty charges. A few days ago, I have been receiving calls from policemen and a secretary from a collection agency telling me that a criminal case has been filed and that I have to pay my debt or else I will be arrested. They have been calling me at odd hours at night (when I’m supposed to be asleep) and even calling me at our office during office hours. In one of those calls, the collector called me an estafadora and a liar. I think they are already harassing me. I know I have debt and that I need to pay, but does the credit card company have the right to harass me left and right? Please help me.
It is good that you are acknowledging your obligation and responsibility to pay it. Your experience is not uncommon, so the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas issued Circular No. 454, Series of 2004, which includes guidelines for credit card companies in collecting amounts due them. Section 7 of the circular discusses the means allowed and not allowed by the Bangko Sentral in collecting credit card debt.
Pursuant to Section 7 of the circular, banks, subsidiary/affiliate credit card companies, collection agencies, counsels and other agents may use reasonable and legally permissible means to collect amounts owed them. They must observe good faith and reasonable conduct and refrain from engaging in unscrupulous or untoward acts. The circular also enumerates instances that are considered as unfair collection practices, which are collection practices prohibited by the Bangko Sentral. These are:
a) The use or threat of violence or other criminal means to harm the physical person, reputation or property of any person;
b) The use of obscenities, insults or profane language that amounts to a criminal act or offense under applicable laws;
c) Disclosure of the names of credit cardholders who allegedly refuse to pay debts, except as allowed by the Rules;
d) Threat to take any action that cannot legally be taken;
e) Communicating or threat to communicate to any person credit information that is known to be false including failure to communicate that a debt is being disputed;
f) Any false representation or deceptive means to collect or attempt to collect any debt or to obtain information concerning a cardholder; and
g) Making contact at unreasonable/inconvenient times or hours which shall be defined as contact before 6 a.m. or after 10 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.
According to you, the collector is claiming that a criminal case has been filed against you. This may be easily verified by inquiring with the court where it is allegedly filed. Section 7(g) of the circular states that they may call you at inconvenient/unreasonable times as long as your account has been unpaid for more than sixty (60) days or you have given them permission to do so. The resort to calling you names and profanities, however, is considered as unfair collection practice. If you think that you are being harassed by the credit card company or its agents, you may report the matter to the Financial Consumer Affairs Group of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter. 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