By Christia Marie Ramos, February 2, 2022; Philippine Daily Inquirer

Manila, Philippines — The Senate on Wednesday approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to strengthen protection for financial consumers against increasing cybercrimes.

Voting 19-0-0, senators passed Senate Bill No. 2488 or the proposed Financial Consumers Protection Act, the passage of which was certified as urgent by President Rodrigo Duterte.

The measure seeks to reinforce and strengthen the rights of Filipino financial consumers to “equitable and fair treatment, disclosure and transparency of financial products and services, protection of consumer assets against ready and misuse, data privacy and protection, and the timely handling and redress of complaints.”

“It is our hope that this bill gives consumers peace of mind that their hard-earned money will not be lost or taken away without any explanation or accountability,” said Poe, who chairs the Senate banks committee and sponsor of the bill.

Earlier, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) reported a total of 42,456 complaints from 2020 to 2021 that amounted to an estimated P540 million in last year alone.

The BSP also cited account takeovers or identity theft, phishing and social engineering schemes, including card-not-present fraud, as the top three cybercrimes in 2020.

Poe stressed the importance of building trust between consumers and financial institutions to achieve BSP’s target of having at least 70 percent Filipinos with bank accounts by 2023.

“Let’s not waste the newfound confidence of people who shifted to online banking during the pandemic. The bigger goal is financial inclusion for every Filipino,” she added.