Complaints on financial transactions reach 20,000

THE BANGKO SENTRAL ng Pilipinas (BSP) received about 20,000 concerns from financial consumers last year, mostly about fraud and unauthorized transactions, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin E. Diokno said.

“The BSP Consumer Protection on Market Conduct Office showed that some 20,000 complaints were received in 2020. Around 13% refers to fraudulent, unauthorized transactions and financial products of BSP-supervised institutions such as deposits, credit card, e-money services and remittance,” Mr. Diokno said in an online briefing on Thursday.

The most prevalent cases were unauthorized or fraudulent transactions by scammers, he said.

“These complaints were referred to respective financial institutions for their appropriate handling and response,” Mr. Diokno said.

The central bank chief added that the number of complaints also showed increased awareness among consumers about how they can reach the BSP’s consumer assistance mechanisms.

Mr. Diokno said the central bank views consumer protection as a “shared responsibility” of institutions and consumers themselves. With this, he noted that continued guidance and education on handling transactions, especially those done online, would help prevent customers from falling prey to scammers.

“A new law is being introduced to put in place a comprehensive financial consumer protection regime wherein financial inclusion, financial education, good governance and effective supervision all come into play,” he added.

In June, House Bill 6768 or the Financial Products and Services Consumer Production Act was passed on third reading. Its counterpart Senate Bill 1739 is pending at the committee level.

The measure will allow regulators like the BSP, Securities and Exchange Commission, Insurance Commission, and the Cooperative Development Authority “to issue a cease and desist order without the need for prior hearing, if an act amounts to fraud or causes grave irreparable or injury to consumers,” Mr. Diokno said. These cases may include unfair collection practices, such as harassment of consumers.

Under the bill, financial service providers may be subject to fines, suspension and penalties once they are found responsible for allowing credit card fraud.

The bill also gives regulators the power to adjudicate and award an amount claimed by consumers for return from a financial institution without needing to go through usual processes.

“We hope that this critical bill will be passed into law, especially with the prevalence of fraudulent activities related to financial consumers,” Mr. Diokno said. — L.W.T. Noble

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