Over 42,000 financial consumer complaints during pandemic — BSP

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 17) -- The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas on Monday said it received more than 42,000 consumer complaints on financial transactions, including unauthorized fund transfers, during the pandemic.

At a Senate hearing on the proposed Financial Consumer Protection Act, BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno said a total of 42,456 complaints reached the central bank’s Consumer Assistance Mechanism in 2020 and 2021.

Last year alone, the amounts involved in the complaints totaled P540 million.

Diokno said there was a dramatic rise in cybercrimes, as consumers turned to digital transactions in 2020. For instance, hacking and malware attacks surged by a whopping 2,324% compared to the previous year.

The top three cybercrimes in 2020 were account takeover or identity theft, phishing and other social engineering schemes, and card-not-present fraud, Diokno said.

“A majority of these cases were deemed closed but the process was long and arduous, and for many complaints, the resolutions were unfavorable to the consumers,” the central bank governor said.

Diokno appealed for the swift passage of the Financial Consumer Protection Act, which would include the granting of additional powers to the BSP to adjudicate on consumer complaints.

“Should there be a loss of confidence in the financial system, consumers might opt to keep their savings and investments away from the formal financial system, thus undermining the financial system’s ability to intermediate and facilitate the flow of funds to protective sectors of the economy,” Diokno warned.

Laban Konsyumer president Vic Dimagiba said the law should be passed in the remaining weeks of the 18th Congress, lamenting the “very passive” way complaints are being handled now.

“Ang haba-haba po ng acknowledgment ng financial consumer group ng BSP kapag may consumer complaints po kayong in-endorse, ang haba-haba, ang ganda-ganda the way it’s written,” Dimagiba said. “Pero sa dulo po noon ang sasabihin lang ng Bangko Sentral, e-endorse po namin ang complaint niyo sa bangkong ito, X. ‘Pag in-endorse na kay Bank X, matutulog na po iyon doon.”

[Translation: BSP’s financial consumer group has a lengthy acknowledgement every time you endorse a consumer complaint. It’s long and written beautifully. But in the end, Bangko Sentral will only say it will endorse your complaint to Bank X. Once endorsed, it will languish there.]

Senator Grace Poe, chairperson of the committee on banks, targets to sponsor the bill at the plenary next week. The House of Representatives passed a counterpart measure last year.

“For many of us in this hearing, maybe, when we talk about P5,000, P10,000, we can sleep on it and say we can resolve it next week or the week after. But for some people, that’s actually their means of survival for the coming weeks. That’s why not to have that resolved right away is really a dilemma,” Poe said.