Hontiveros seeks probe on debt-shaming of lending apps

Senator Risa Hontiveros has filed a resolution seeking to hold an inquiry on the abusive collections practices of some online lending firms.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros

This comes on the heels of reports that as many as 931 complaints have been filed before the National Privacy Commission (NPC) by aggrieved borrowers complaining of harassment, threats, verbal abuse, and even unauthorized access to their phones’s list of contacts.

Many of the reports are rife with cases of shaming and violation of privacy by debt collectors. Some borrowers told stories of having their own relatives say that the company called them to force the borrower to pay. Sometimes screenshots of the borrowers themselves would be shown online because the app had access to the device’s camera and location.

It was reported that many of these cases involve small amounts of money. One incident involves an online lending company embarrassing a borrower over a P 3,000 debt. Another borrower was so distraught that she refused to go out for fear of encountering any relative who may have been contacted.

“These predatory online lending companies are exploiting the poverty and desperation of our people. Maliliit ang utang, pero kung maningil, akala mo si Janet Lim-Napoles ang sinisingil. No one should profit from harassment and shaming small people,” Hontiveros said.

“Tama na ang utang ay dapat binabayaran. Pero hindi ito dahilan para sa mga lending companies na gamitin ang utang, lalo na kung maliliit ang halaga, para magpahiya at manira ng buhay. It’s not an excuse to bully, shame and violate a person’s privacy,” Hontiveros added.

Senate Resolution Number 136 seeks to investigate the very business model these companies use to collect from their borrowers.

According to the NPC, the business model, which seems to originate from China, has also failed to comply with regulations on authorized disclosure, transparency, and the proper processing of personal data.

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