Removed personal loan apps that violated security rules: Google India
Tech giant Google said it looked at hundreds of personal loan apps in India reported by users and government agencies, and those that violated its user safety policies were immediately removed from its Play Store.
Google has asked the developers of the remaining identified apps to demonstrate that they comply with applicable local laws and regulations, failing which those apps will also be removed.
“Providing a safe and secure experience through Google products is our top priority. Our overall product policies are designed and implemented with this goal in mind, and we are always striving to improve our practices to enhance user safety.” Google said in a blog post. which was posted by Suzanne Frey, Vice President, Products, Android Security and Privacy.
Google did not disclose the names of the deleted apps.
“We have reviewed hundreds of personal loan applications in India, based on metrics submitted by users and government agencies. Apps that violate our user security policies were immediately removed from the store and we asked developers of other apps to demonstrate that they comply with applicable local laws and regulations, ”the blog said.
Applications that fail to do so will be removed without further notice; and in addition, Google will continue to assist law enforcement in their investigation of this issue, he added.
On Wednesday, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) announced the formation of a task force to suggest regulatory measures to promote the orderly growth of digital lending amid growing incidents of harassment related to online lending.
He had also noted that the recent surge and popularity of online lending platforms / mobile lending apps has raised some serious concerns which have wider systemic implications. RBI last month warned the public not to fall prey to the growing number of unauthorized digital lending platforms and mobile apps.
In its blog post, Google said that all developers in its Play Store agree to the terms of the Google Play Developer Distribution Agreement, which states that apps must adhere to applicable rules and laws, including best practices. and generally accepted guidelines.
In addition, Google Play Developer Policy requires financial services apps that offer personal loans to disclose key information such as minimum and maximum repayment periods, maximum annual percentage rate, and a representative example of the cost. total loan, ”he added. .
To further help ensure that users make smart choices, Google only allows personal loan apps that are required to be fully repaid within 60 days or more of the loan issue date, a he declared.
“We believe that transparency of information about the features, fees, risks and benefits of personal loans will help people make informed decisions about their financial needs, thereby reducing the risk of being exposed to financial products and services. deceptive, ”Google added.
The company said developers should only request permissions that are necessary to implement current features or services, and should not use permissions that provide access to user or device data for any purpose. not disclosed, implemented or prohibited.
Developers should also use the data only for purposes to which the user has consented, and if they later wish to use the data for other purposes, they should obtain the user’s permission for the additional uses, emphasized. Google.
“Google Play users expect a safe, secure, and transparent experience, and developers come to Play for powerful tools and services that help them grow and grow their businesses. Our policies help us meet those expectations. , and we continue to work hard to ensure that Google Play is a platform that supports the entire ecosystem, ”Google said.
How things came to such a passage
At least 10 Indian loan apps on Google’s Play Store, which have been downloaded millions of times, have broken Google’s loan repayment terms designed to protect vulnerable borrowers, according to a Reuters review of these services and over a dozen users.
Four apps were pulled from the Play Store – where the vast majority of Indians download phone apps – after Reuters reported to Google they were violating its ban on offering personal loans that require full repayment in 60 days or less, has reported the news agency earlier. the week.
Three of those apps – 10MinuteLoan, Ex-Money, and Extra Mudra – did not respond to calls and emails seeking comment.
The fourth app, StuCred, was allowed to return to the Google Play Store on January 7 after withdrawing the offer from a 30-day loan. He denied engaging in unscrupulous practices.
At least six other apps remain available in the store and offer loan repayment terms, some as low as seven days, according to 15 borrowers and screenshots of loan details from the six apps shared with Reuters.
Some of these apps charge a hefty processing fee of up to 2,000 rupees ($ 27) on loans under 10,000 rupees with terms of 30 days or less, depending on the 15 borrowers. Along with other fees, including one-time registration fees, borrowers can pay interest rates of up to 60% per week in real terms as shown in their loan details.
By comparison, Indian banks typically offer personal loans with annual interest rates of 10-20%, and they usually don’t have to be paid off in full for at least a year.
The rise of smartphones and affordable mobile internet in India has resulted in a proliferation of hundreds of personal loan applications in recent years. Campaign groups say rapid technological advances have overtaken the authorities and are calling for the introduction of regulations regarding loan terms and fees.
“There are no clear standards on app lending in India. At the moment, they fall into a gray area,” Nikhil Pahwa, digital rights activist and editor of MediaNama, told Reuters. Delhi-based publication on technology policy.
The four apps that violated Google’s repayment term policy – 10MinuteLoan, Ex-Money, StuCred, and Extra Mudra – were advertising 30-day loan terms on their apps and had been downloaded at least 1.5 days. million times.
Reuters reported these apps to Google on December 18, and they were removed from the Play Store in India within four days.
In response to a request from Reuters on whether he had offered any loans requiring full repayment in 60 days or less, StuCred told Reuters: a law relating to the same has been passed that would require such action from them. (from Google).
Several other apps indicate on their Play Store listings that the minimum repayment term they offer is over three months, but in reality, their length often ranges between seven and 15 days, depending on the 15 borrowers and their screenshots.
These apps include CashBean, Moneed, iCredit, CashKey, RupeeFly, and RupeePlus, which have been downloaded almost 12 million times in total.
The loan application industry has separately drawn the attention of police who say they are investigating dozens of applications following the suicides of at least two borrowers in the past month after they themselves and their families were reportedly harassed by debt collectors.
Police did not disclose the identity of those under investigation.
Harassment for debt collection is prohibited by RBI rules which state that debt collectors cannot harass borrowers by “persistently disturbing” them, or by contacting family or acquaintances.
Reuters’ review of 50 popular loan apps available on Google Play found that almost all of them require borrowers to give them permission to access their phone contacts.
Never miss a story! Stay connected and informed with Mint. Download our app now !!