Imprisonment, heavier fines for illegal online lenders, scammers

Albay Rep. Oh Salceda.

MANILA, Philippines — Albay Rep. Joey Salceda is warning illegal online lenders and investment scammers of stiffer prison terms and fines once President Rodrigo Duterte signs the law into law. Financial Consumer Protection (FCPA).

Salceda, who chairs the House Committee on Ways and Means, said Duterte was likely to approve the legislation within a week.

“Sources at the Palace tell me that the President is very likely to sign him this week. In any case, it will come into force on May 7,” he said in a statement on Tuesday evening.

Drafted by Salceda, the FCPA would give financial regulators powers to regulate, monitor and inspect, market surveillance, enforce and decide on financial products.

The law would also expand the subpoena powers of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and increase fines for investment fraud up to 10 million pesos, in addition to criminal penalties.

“Once enacted, the FCP law means more powers for authorities, heavier prison sentences and fines for fraudsters, and clearer laws and regulations on investments, loans and other financial products,” said underlined Salceda.

The lawmaker said he expects a bigger and broader crackdown from the SEC on dodgy online investments and online lenders once the law is approved.

“In particular, I want tougher action against harassment by collectors of illegal online loan applications. I also want jail time for those who solicit unauthorized investments,” Salceda stressed.

He added that the law was “a crucial balancing act in our efforts towards financial inclusion. As more and more people are included in the financial system, you have a larger base of potential victims of financial fraud. So you want tougher laws and penalties against fraudsters.

“With the FCP law, financial consumers have a stronger footing,” Salceda noted, pointing out that he also pushed for a “no waiver of rights” clause in the law.

“No more of that kind of waiver once the FCP law comes into effect. You can’t just say ‘sorry, let’s move on’ if you’re wrong as a bank,” he said.

Such waivers are common in the fine print of terms and conditions governing deposit accounts, so BDO Unibank depositors who fell victim to the “Mark Nagoyo” hack last December were initially told that the bank was not not obliged to repay their losses.

According to Salceda, the FCPA would also boost confidence in the country’s banking sector.

“We badly need a boost of confidence in the system following our gray listing in the Financial Action Task Force (FATF),” Salceda said. The FATF is an intergovernmental organization founded in 1989 to formulate policies to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism.


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