Finance, fintech associations back curbs on debtor harassment by online lenders

FINANCIAL ORGANIZATIONS said they support a National Privacy Commission (NPC) crackdown on online lenders collecting excessive information from app users for use in shaming the applicants in the event of non-payment.

The Fintech Alliance.PH and Philippine Finance Association said creditworthiness can be determined lawfully with reasonable data disclosures by applicants.

Online lenders must “refrain from exploiting borrowers by using the borrowers’ personal data to shame and coerce them into paying their loans through unauthorized and unfair use of their personal data,” the groups said in a statement Wednesday.

The NPC last month ordered the immediate takedown of four online lending apps that have been the subject of complaints for alleged unauthorized use of personal data.

Borrowers have complained that online lending apps JuanHand, Pesopop, CashJeep, and Lemon Loan have been using users’ personal data to harass them to collect debt. The companies operating the apps are being investigated for violations of the Data Privacy Act.

The financial groups said that online lenders must comply with the law, adding that using mobile app permissions to store client contact lists and photo galleries is unnecessary and unreasonable.

“We call on these non-compliant lending entities to use lawful and reasonable methods in evaluating loan applicants’ creditworthiness as well as in debt collection practices by upholding data subject rights without resorting to unfair debt collection practices and harassment of borrowers such as the use of insults or profane language, violent threats or false representation and unnecessarily exposing their borrowers’ personal data to unauthorized persons,” the groups said.

The NPC is investigating more than 200 online lending apps available for download. — Jenina P. Ibanez