Chapter VII of Plastic Opium provides a detailed description of how the Consumer Insolvency Act was quickly brought into being. Called the "savior of credit-card debtors" and the "personal bankruptcy act," it took effect on April 11. Its provisions, however, are complicated, and many debtors have feared that their ignorance of the proper procedures would result in their applications being rejected. Consequently, they have been rushing to agents, who charge NT$60,000 per case, an amount the debtors can ill afford.
What is meant by "consumer insolvency"? First of all, the act's provisions apply only to "individuals who have not been in business during the past five years or who have been engaged only in a small-scale business (of NT$200,000 a month or less)." Hence, proprietors of large and medium-sized businesses can find no refuge here. Apart from some "unrecoverable debts" owed by people who are unemployed or sick, those who have attempted unsuccessfully to negotiate with banks can apply to the courts for "rehabilitation" or "debt liquidation."
Under a rehabilitation procedure, one makes some payment on the debt at least once every three months over six years. The courts can, for instance, decide that repayment of NT$300,000 will be enough to absolve a NT$1 million debt and that the debtor can hold onto his assets during this period.
A debtor who is unable even to make these payments can apply for "debt liquidation." Going this route, they hand over all their assets, and the proceeds are distributed at the court's discretion among the creditors. So as to encourage debtors to continue to work, no money is docked from paychecks after declaring insolvency-although restrictions are placed on one's lifestyle (such as limits on buying fancy meals). Yet with a personal bankruptcy on your record, you are barred from over 180 different professions involving finances. It severely limits your career options.