Philippines: BSP releases new rules on consumer assistance

MANILA, Philippines — The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) is further strengthening its consumer protection framework with new rules on consumer assistance mechanism (CAM), mediation and adjudication set to take effect in May.

BSP Governor Felipe Medalla said the regulator has approved the rules of procedure to effectively carry out the objectives of Republic Act 11765 or the Finance Products and Services Consumer Protection Act (FCPA).

Medalla said the new rules of procedure for the CAM, as well as mediation and adjudication, would result in just and speedy determination of financial consumer complaints in the BSP.

The central bank’s Monetary Board issued Resolution Number 364 last March 16 approving the rules of procedure.

“These rules shall take effect on May 1, 2023,” Medalla stated in Circular 1169.

The BSP supervised institutions’ Financial Consumer Protection Assistance Mechanism (FCPAM) is a first-level recourse mechanism for financial consumers who are dissatisfied with a financial product or service.

On the other hand, the CAM is a second-level recourse mechanism for financial consumers who have reported their concerns to the BSI involved, through such BSI’s FCPAM, and are not satisfied with how the bank handled their concerns on the latter’s conduct, products and services, or whose concerns were not acted upon by the BSI’s FCPAM within a reasonable period.

The BSP-CAM is primarily facilitative in nature and is aimed at clarifying financial consumer issues by allowing the parties to communicate with each other through the BSP.

The BSP-CAM is a condition precedent to both mediation and adjudication.

A complainant has the option to proceed either to mediation or adjudication after resort to BSP-CAM and, subject to compliance with the requirements of the new rules.

Financial consumers may avail of the BSP-CAM by submitting their complaint in the required format to the consumer protection and market conduct office (CPMCO) either personally or through the BSP Onllne Buddy (BOB) Chatbot, postal mail, courier, electronic mall or through other electronic means.

Financial consumers may also file their complaints with the nearest BSP regional offices or branches, which shall assist them in filing their complaints through the BSP-CAM.

The BSP may provide the necessary assistance to complainants, particularly those who are not able to reduce their complaints into written format for them to be able to file their complaint in the prescribed format.

The respondent shall provide its answer directly to the complainant within 15 days from receipt after which the complainant has 30 days to reply. The respondent and complainant have 10 days each to file their respective rejoinders.

Medalla said mediation is an intervention by which the BSP, through its duly authorized mediation officers, facilitates communication and negotiation between the parties, and assists them in reaching a mutually acceptable settlement. It is voluntary in nature and a strictly confidential process.

On the other hand, the rules stated that financial consumer complaints arising from, or in connection with, financial transactions that are purely civil in nature, and the claim or relief prayed for is solely for payment or reimbursement of a sum of money not exceeding P10 million in total exclusive of legal interest, attorneys’ fees and costs of suit, in accordance with the FCPA.

The regulator would dismiss complaints involving claims of more than P10 million.