This month, there were two important piece of legislations that were enacted into laws that are directly pro consumers. First, is an Executive Order on the matter of ensuring ease of doing business with the government agencies in digital payments. Second is a Republic Act on the matter of ensuring consumers enjoy a safe, reliable and secure digital financial transactions and environment. These two pieces of legislations are major key indicators as the country pushes its National Strategy for Financial Inclusion or NSFI.
I am referring to Executive Order 170 Series of 2022 enabling all government agencies to go fully digital in their financial transactions with the public. This is actually a pending Bill approved on 3rdreading at the House but pending in the Senate. The Executive Order preempted these bills,
The second is Republic Act No. 11765 or the Financial Products and Services Consumer Protection Act. I remember this Act passed only after two Congresses which is faster than the other bills on consumer protection.
Digital payment transactions and disbursements in government transactions is happening in most national and local government units. The objective is to further improve that the digital payment procedures are implemented end to end. It is also important that the red tape of documents have to be further streamlined as this may render digital payment useless.
As an illustration, I tried to renew my professional tax as a lawyer via the E services of Quezon City. I was asked to upload the past year receipt which I did. But I was instructed to do a personal appearance. That started my problem as the rider I asked to submit the documents needs to be authorized. In short, I ended not able to renew till now. This illustration should be thoroughly reviewed in order to achieve the desired objectives of Executive Order No, 170.
A better illustration is the payment of real property taxes in Quezon City. I am satisfied that I am able to complete the payment thru online facilities as required in the E services.
Another good example is the renewal of membership fees for lawyers with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. The digital payment is end to end transactions.
It is our suggestions that for existing digital payment systems in place in government especially in local government units is to further streamline documentary requirements consistent with anti red tape regulations .
The Financial Products and Services Consumer Protection Act centralized all consumer protection measures and programs into a single law. The law repealed the applicable provisions of the Consumer Act of the Philippines on credit and finance contracts. The principal implementing agencies of the Act are the Bangko Sentral Ng Pilipinas, Securities and Exchange Commission, the Insurance Commission and the Cooperative Development Authority,
The Act enumerates the following rights of financial consumers, namely:
- Right to equitable and fair treatment
- Right to disclosure and transparency of financial products and services
- Right to protection of consumer assets to fraud and misuse
- Right to data privacy and protection
- Right to timely handling and redress of complaints.
The Act regulates the activities of Investment Advisers who deal and advise primarily with funds and assets of the consumers under rules to be promulgated by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Under the BSP led NSFI, there will be a financial literacy and education program of financial products and services including how to manage and understand risks of the assets. Our consumer group was invited, and we accepted, to be a member of working groups that shall develop and implement the training module. The passage of the law should accelerate the works of the training module. Consumer complaints shall now be handled and resolved by the primary implementing agencies like the BSP which may conduct alternative modes of complaints resolution.
On the subject of financial products and services, the private sector led activity of the Consumers International called Fair Digital Financial Accelerator project that develops financial literacy training module for consumer associations of low- and middle-income countries, Module 1, will be launched on May 25. As our consumer group is an active member of the working group, we shall be able to get access and share to other interested consumer groups the training module in the country. The thrust of the FDFA is to train consumer associations on the basics and fundamentals of financial products and services, and from there to be able to share with regulators the consumer groups’ recommendations.
In this regard, our consumer group activities on financial products and services are coordinated at the national and international fora.
Atty. Vic Dimagiba, AB, LLB, LLM
President, Laban Konsyumer Inc.
Email at [email protected]