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SEC orders 3 firms to stop online lending

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has ordered Peso Tree, Pesoalo and Pinoy Cash Loan to stop offering loans to the public through online platforms without the necessary licenses.

The Commission En Banc issued the order on January 21, enjoining the owners, operators, promoters, representatives, agents and any and all persons claiming and acting for and in their behalf to immediately cease and desist, under pain of contempt, from engaging in, promoting and facilitating unauthorized lending activities.

The SEC likewise ordered Peso Tree, Pesoalo and Pinoy Cash Loan to cease from offering and advertising their lending business through the internet and to delete or remove promotional presentations and offerings from the internet, including the lending applications they operate.

Section 4 of Republic Act No. 9474, or the Lending Company Regulation Act of 2007, requires that a lending company be established only as a corporation. It further provides that “no lending company shall conduct business unless granted an authority to operate by the SEC.”

Any person who shall engage in the business of lending without a validly subsisting authority to operate from the SEC may face a fine ranging from P10,000 to P50,000 or imprisonment of six months to 10 years or both, under Section 12 of the Lending Company Regulation Act.

Peso Tree, Pesoalo and Pinoy Cash Loan offered loans to the public through their respective websites, mobile applications, Facebook pages and other similar online platforms, based on the findings of the Commission’s Corporate Governance and Finance Department and Enforcement and Investor Protection Department (EIPD).

Certifications by the SEC Company Registration and Monitoring Department (CRMD), however, showed that Peso Tree, Pesoalo and Pinoy Cash Loan were not registered as corporations and that they were not issued the necessary certificate of authority to operate as lending companies.

The EIPD further found the online lending operators to have employed abusive collection practices by imposing high interest rates, onerous and misleading terms and conditions, making misrepresentations as to non-collection of charges and fees and subjecting their debtors to public humiliation and ridicule to the extent of violating their right to privacy to ensure prompt and full collection of indebtedness.

“Considering that the Online Lending Operators are not incorporated entities and have no Certificate of Authority to Operate as Lending Companies or Financing Companies, the lending activities and transaction are illegal and have to be stopped immediately by this Commission,” the order read.

“Finally, the Commission cannot turn a blind eye on the fact that the Online Lending Operator’s violation in the instant case was aggravated by the fact that they conducted their business in an unscrupulous manner with evident bad faith, by charging their borrowers unconscionable interest rates, subjecting them to inhumane treatment using abusive and degrading language, and similar other harassment strategies in order to collect debts. This has to stop immediately.”

The SEC earlier issued cease and desist orders covering a total of 48 online lending platforms and their operators for engaging in the business of lending or financing without incorporating and securing a certificate of authority. More information is available on the Lending & Financing Companies page on the Commission’s website.

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