DESPITE the mental and emotional stress brought by the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic, credit card companies still resort to their notorious practice of harassing clients with unpaid balances, a party-list lawmaker said on Friday.
This was pointed out by Ang Probinsyano Rep. Ronnie Ong, citing experiences since the New Year where card holders are being threatened by collection agents with lawsuits for failure to settle their balances.
Ong said the agents would even threaten their clients that they would freeze their bank accounts or move to foreclose their properties.
“This intimidation, this flexing of their power is wrong and insensitive. We are still in the pandemic where life is hard and the issuing banks are not focusing on the issue at hand but are even going after other unrelated accounts, loans and properties of the helpless consumers, effectively shutting down their other financial means,” Ong said.
What is even more reprehensible, Ong stressed, is the fact that many, if not most, of these cases on late credit card payments are due to the application of grace periods provided under Republic Act (RA) Nos. 11469 and 11494 or the Bayanihan 1 and 2 respectively, both of which provided safety nets for the credit card companies and for the transacting public.
Under Bayanihan 1 and its IRR, banks were required to implement a 30-day grace period for all loans with principal and/or interest falling within the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) period without incurring interest on interest, penalties, fees or other charges. The initial 30-day period was automatically extended whenever the ECQ period was also extended.
On the other hand, Bayanihan 2 effectively extended the maturity date of some loans since banks were required to implement a 60-day grace period for all loans, or any part thereof, falling due on or before December 31, 2020, without incurring interest on interest, penalties, fees or other charges.
“The real issue is not about the late payments of credit card holders but the big neglect on the part of banks to either compute the right amount in due or simply show a breakdown which portions of the loans were affected by the grace periods and where do the accrued interests and penalties come from,” Ong stated.
Ong further lamented that banks resort to harassment where they should have been upholding the basic right of the transacting public to be informed of the correct amount of credit card balance and to be given a clear breakdown.
It may be noted that, as regards our electric bills, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) slapped a P19-million fine on Meralco last year for their simple failure to provide accurate information. Reportedly, Meralco failed to indicate that their charges were just estimates and to allow the customers to pay in installments.
“These banks are also affected by the pandemic and they need money, we know that. But what we are calling for is fairness instead of harassment. Just apply the law and provide the people accurate information on the amount of loan that is really due. They need explanations not threats,” Ong said.
Other than incidents of harassment, many consumers have also experienced cancellation of their credit cards instead of mere suspension until their next full payments.
Ong added that banks can simply give due notice within a reasonable timeframe before billing deadlines, owing to the fact that some clients may have honestly and simply overlooked the matter during this period of time.Publication Source : People's Journal