Congress approves 'Credit Card Industry Regulation Act'

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(File photo) Consumers shop at an upscale mall in the financial district of Makati City.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — With a week left before the term of President Benigno Aquino III ends, Congress has approved a bill seeking to regulate the country's credit card industry — by putting it under the supervision of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

The "Philippine Credit Card Industry Regulation Act" prohibits card issuers and collection agents from engaging in abusive and unfair practices against cardholders, and issues rules of conduct or standards of operation.

The House of Representatives approved the bill in May last year. The Senate passed it on final reading January this year, and it was concurred by the Lower House on May 23 before adjournment.

The proposed Act will govern all credit card issuers, acquirers and all credit card transactions. It mandates the BSP to supervise all credit card issuers and acquirers.

According to a statement from the Lower House, the BSP's supervision shall include:

The issuance of rules of conduct or the establishment of standards of operation for uniform application to all institutions or functions covered, and the imposition of penalties in case of noncompliance

The conduct of examination as determined by the Monetary Board  to determine compliance

Oversight to ascertain that laws and regulations are complied with

"The BSP may also limit and prohibit the charging of annual membership fees for credit cards," it added.

Under the bill, a credit card issuer may resort to reasonable and legally permissible means to collect amounts due them under the credit card agreement. However, it cannot "harass, abuse or oppress any person or engage in any unfair practices," as deemed by the BSP in the collection of debt.

Card issuers are mandated to exercise transparency in all transactions; they are required to disclose:

Finance charges for unpaid amounts after a payment's due date

The percentage that the interest bears to the total amount to be financed expressed as a simple monthly or annual rate, as the case may be, on the outstanding balance of the obligation

Default, late payment/penalty fees or similar delinquency-related charges payable in the event of late payments

Those who violate the bill or any rules issued by the BSP's Monetary Board face fines of P50,000 to P200,000, or imprisonment of two to 10 years, or both.