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Online lenders face charges for shaming clients

The National Privacy Commission (NPC) is looking into three major online lending companies accused of publicly shaming borrowers to threaten them to pay back their debts.

The NPC said on Friday that it had filed cases against the companies and their officers after receiving more than 560 complaints that pointed to a business model built on threats and harassment.

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These were filed against Fynamics Lending Inc., which operates the PondoPeso app; Unipeso Lending Co., which operates the Cashlending app; and Fcash Global Lending Inc., operator of Fast Cash app.

The agency also gave journalists copies of the fact-finding reports on the companies involved. The reports showed similarities with how the lending firms went after their borrowers.

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These companies use the contact list of their users without consent, informing other people such as the users’ family, friends and coworkers about the unpaid debt, the reports showed.

Nonusers were contacted by the companies to inform them that their names were submitted by the users as comakers or character references. In some cases, some of them were even asked to pay the debt on behalf of the borrower.

There were also cases wherein snapshots of the users were taken because the apps had remote access to the phone camera and its location.

“[The complainants] relay how their lives have been affected because of the humiliation they experienced, where some of them no longer go out of their houses for fear of encountering a relative, friend or coworker who received calls or text messages from these online lending applications,” the reports read.

NPC Commissioner Raymund Liboro said he was confident that the agency had an “airtight” case against the online lending companies, which continued to be available on app stores today.

While debt generally has to be repaid, he said an unpaid debt is not commensurate to the damages that users have experienced from losing face both in their professional and personal lives.

The companies and their directors have 10 days to respond to the charges filed against them, including noncompliance with the legal requirements of processing personal data as well as malicious and unauthorized disclosure.

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Their operators may be liable for imprisonment of up to seven years and fines of not more than P5 million under the Data Privacy Act of 2012.

According to the NPC, it has received a total of 921 similar complaints beginning July last year, although it was focusing on the three firms since they accounted for 61 percent of the complaints.

This does not necessarily stop the NPC from filing charges against more companies as the investigation goes on.

The NPC filed complaints against the following officials:

Fcash Global Lending Inc.: Kellon de Jesus Manalastas, Tiancai Huang, John Christian Sia, Jovy Co Ting and Zichao Su.

Unipeso Lending Co.: Haolong Li, Guanqun Luo, Flordeluna Rosell, Rizza Mae Lorilla and Renyvic Duquiatan.

Fynamics Lending Inc.: Meng Li, Changjin Wang, Kwinnie Mae Fianza, Jacquielyn Chua Garrido, Helen Joy Amican de Luna and Bernard Salvacion, Jr.

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TAGS: National Privacy Commission, NPC
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