Home Editors' Picks Bill protecting financial consumers now awaits President’s signature

Bill protecting financial consumers now awaits President’s signature

A person holds a credit card while shopping online on a laptop, Jan. 3. — PHOTO BY ARTUR WIDAK/NURPHOTO/ REUTERS

A MEASURE seeking to provide increased protection for financial consumers against cybercrime will now be sent to Malacañang for President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s signature.

The Senate on Wednesday passed on third and final reading Senate Bill No. 2488 or the proposed Financial Consumers Protection Act (FCPA).

The House of Representatives also adopted the Senate’s version of the bill, which means it will just need Mr. Duterte’s signature to become a law.

“It is our hope that this bill gives consumers peace of mind that their hard-earned money will not be lost or taken away without any explanation or accountability,” Senator Mary Grace Natividad S. Poe-Llamanzares, who heads the Committee on Banks, Financial Institutions and Currencies, said during a plenary session on Wednesday evening. 

The measure will empower financial regulators to enforce standards of business conduct for financial entities. They will also be given adjudicatory powers to order the reimbursement of lost funds within a certain threshold, allowing regulators to “resolve the challenges faced by financial consumers in a timely manner.”

“It’s a good start, especially as banks have recently been susceptible to cybersecurity issues. It will also be good protection against investment fraud and scams,” said Albay Rep. Jose Ma. Clemente S. Salceda, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and primary author of the counterpart bill.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Benjamin E. Diokno said at a briefing the FCPA will strengthen regulators’ ability to enforce sanctions on erring entities.

Mr. Diokno noted that more than half of the 23,275 complaints received by the BSP in 2020 were resolved in favor of consumers, while a third of complaints were acted upon by concerned financial institutions.

“Their complaints resolution process is constrained by the BSP’s limited legal authority to adjudicate. The Financial Consumer Protection Act will ensure that the BSP now has legal authority to conduct summary hearings and claims for payments or require reimbursement to aggrieved consumers,” he said.

The central bank will be at the forefront in ensuring the implementation of the FCPA once it is signed into law, said Charina B. de Vera-Yap, director at the BSP’s Consumer Protection and Market Conduct Office.

“There are equally important provisions on market conduct and surveillance. These are additional powers that the BSP can do so financial markets will be disciplined and will comply with the provisions of the bill,” she said.

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Commissioner Kelvin Lester K. Lee said in a Viber message to BusinessWorld  the measure includes a provision allowing regulators to order refunds to victims.

“The fact that this is a priority measure of the administration, dedicated to the protection of the public, is a very positive development,” he said.

FinTech Alliance.ph Chairman Angelito M. Villanueva said the measure is expected to lessen cybercrime and improve financial education of consumers.

“With customer centricity at the core of the industry’s digital transformation, empowering customers with adequate standards on protection and security is a must,” he said in a Viber message.  Alyssa Nicole O. Tan and Luz Wendy T. Noble