Over 45 workers of online lending applications, including a Chinese national, were arrested for supposedly harassing and threatening clients unable to pay their loans within the prescribed period.
According to Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group Public Information Officer Police Lieutenant Michelle Sabino, the division had received several harassment complaints against lending apps that were being run by the Cashtree Lending Corp.
The terms and conditions of the applications allegedly contained a clause that granted the firm access to clients’ contacts - a requirement for taking out a loan. Once approved by the borrower, the firm is then said to save the contacts into its database.
“Hina-harass nila ‘yung mga relatives, kasi nga stated eh, 'di ba nga like ‘yung contact numbers mo nandon… so if you do not pay out, ‘ire-rape namin ’to, papatayin namin,’ and all other threats na posible, ‘yun ang ginagawa nila,” she said in a report on GMA’s “24 Oras Weekend” on Sunday.
(They harass the relatives, as there was a clause regarding contacts… So if you do not pay, they threaten to rape, kill, and all other possible threats. That is what they do.)
The application targets mainly low-income households and those unemployed, even if it was found to have no certificate of authority or permit to operate.
The company's loans were also said to have high interest rates, and they get in touch with the borrower's contacts once payment is not made within eight days.
Collecting agents have also been reported to encourage borrowers to make other loans with different loan applications for them to make a repayment.
“Minsan merong mga dumadating sa kanila na sasabihin ng collecting agent na ‘Okay, para makasambot ka, para makabayad ka, magdownload ka ng itong loan app nito, would also offer, so para maka-payoff ka dito sa isa, mag-uutang ka na naman which in turn nabaon na nang nabaon si victim,” she said.
(Sometimes the collecting agents would tell the borrower that for them to be able to pay, they should download another loan app. So for them to pay off their debt in one application, they would borrow again leaving them buried in debt.)
For his part, one of the suspects, Shihai Dao, said the firm did not encourage any harassment.
“Never do anything illegal in Philippines, so I’m confused… Never allowed to employ to harass the client to pay the money back. Just reminding them and tell them to pay (sic),” he said in the same report.
The firm would face charges for violating the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2021.
“Do not download ‘tong mga lending apps na ‘to, ‘tong mga loan apps. May tendency na ma-threaten pa ‘yung life mo or i-harass, at ang problema, hindi lang ikaw, lahat ng contact mo,” Sabino said.
(Do not download these lending and loan apps. There is a tendency that your life will be threatened or be harassed. The problem is it will not be just you but all your contacts.)
Authorities from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the National Privacy Commission (NPC) earlier warned firms against unfair debt collection practices.
Such practices included sending violent threats, using harsh words, disclosing the name and other personal information of the borrower in public, and messaging or calling the people on the contact list of the borrower without his/her consent.
Lending firms caught practicing such methods may be fined P25,000 to P1 million, along with the revocation of their certificate of authority to operate. — Jon Viktor Cabuenas/DVM, GMA News