A full disclosure of the terms and costs of the money transfer service being offered by remittance agents and companies to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) is now being proposed by Senator Bong Revilla.
“These OFWs dedicate all their labor and sacrifices for the betterment of their families. Their salaries, wages or earnings that they send home are products of love and hard work,” Revilla said in filing Senate Bill No. 438, otherwise known as the “Remittance Act of 2019.”
“The bill penalizes price gouging or the exorbitant charging of fees for the transactions being made.”
“Recognizing the valuable contribution of our OFWs in our economy, this measure seeks to protect the hard-earned money of our OFWs. It requires the disclosure of charges and fees that would be paid for sending their money through remittance agents and companies. Likewise, it penalizes price gouging or the exorbitant charging of fees for the transactions being made,” the veteran legislator further said.
The measure requires remittance companies to disclose all finance charges and other fees on the money transfer service and to strictly adhere to the terms and conditions of their remittance.
The bill requires remittance agents and companies to be duly registered, licensed and must have met all the requirements of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).
All remittance agents and companies shall follow the exact real time exchange rate at the beginning of the business day as posted in the Reference Exchange Rate Bulletin of the BSP.
The BSP, in accordance with its rules and regulations, shall impose a flat rate transaction for senders from the Philippines.
Remnitance agents and companies shall be required to include a waiver form for each transaction clearly specifying the exchange rate provided for the currency, including the additional fees being deducted from the original remittance.
If the recipient consents to the exchange from the original currency to Philippine peso, a signed acknowledgment will have to be made.
Remittance agents and companies are also required to serve notice to the parties concerned that senders are generally not permitted to require that the money transfer be made in the original currency, except in specific countries where senders are given the option of receiving the money in original currency without any additional exchange fees being charged to the sender.
Remittance agents and companies shall also be required to disclose the list of companies, as determined by the BSP, which gives the option to require that money transferred be paid out to the recipient in the original currency sent.
On the part of the senders and recipients, the measure requires them to produce at least one valid and legally acceptable identification card.
Remittance agents and companies receiving remittances from countries that give the option to specify that original currency be paid out to recipient shall be required to adhere to the contractual commitment entered into by the remittance agent and the sender.
In cases where only Philippine currency is available and paid out to recipients in direct contradiction of the sender’s specified currency or the currency of the originating country, remittance agents and companies shall be required to obtain an additional waiver from the recipient.
Imprisonment of from six years to 10 years and the payment of a fine of from P200,000 to P1 million will be imposed on those who will violate the provisions of the bill.
“There is a provision requiring restitution in cases where excessive amounts have been charged to a recipient.”
In addition to the said penalties, Revilla also introduced a provision requiring restitution in cases where excessive amounts have been charged to a recipient by a remittance agent.
In filing the bill, Revilla said it is the declared policy of the State to protect its citizens from deceptive, unfair and unconscionable acts of remittance agents and money transfer companies.
“The OFWs’ total remittances made from April to September last year amounted to a total of P235.9 billion based on the records of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA),” the seasoned lawmaker said.
The senator said majority or 52.8% of OFWs sent their remittance through banks while the rest are through money transfer services.