Photo Credit: Reuters
Google India on Thursday revealed that it “immediately removed” personal loan apps from Play store for violating its user safety policies. The company wrote in a blog post that it reviewed hundreds of personal loan apps in the country based on flags submitted by users and government agencies. The new move comes months after several users raised issues against some mobile apps offering short-term loans harassing customers in case of non-payments. Some of the affected customers alleged that the apps were accessing their contact details, which were allegedly used by recovery agents to bully them.
Although Google didn't provide the number of apps being removed by the latest decision, it mentioned that the developers of the remaining identified apps were asked to demonstrate that they comply with applicable local laws and regulations.
“Apps that fail to do so will be removed without further notice,” said Suzanne Frey, Vice President, Product, Android Security and Privacy, in the blog post.
Reuters noted in its investigation that at least 10 Indian lending apps on Google Play had no clarity on repayment lengths. That was a clear breach of Google's rules for apps offering personal loans.
Google said that it only allowed personal loan apps with full repayment required in greater than or equal to 60 days from the date the loan is issued.
Some affected customers informed local authorities that various short-term loan apps were charging hefty interest that they weren't aware of while applying for loans. It was also found that in many cases, the lending apps were accessing contacts that were used to harass customers in case of defaults or late payments.
Frey said that developers must only request necessary permissions to implement current features or services. “They should not use permissions that give access to user or device data for undisclosed, unimplemented, or disallowed features or purposes,” she said.
Google has started sending out emails to the developers of lending apps to furnish documents related to approvals or licenses within five days. Sources familiar with the development told Gadgets 360 that the company delisted at least 100 apps from the Play store in the last 10 days. One of the first apps that were removed by Google seemed to be the Udhaar Loan app that was pulled in late December — after its recovery agents were found bullying some customers.
Online loan horror :— Prashanth Rangaswamy (@itisprashanth) November 8, 2020
Representative of a loan app called " Udhaar Loan " Asking a girl from Tamilnadu to video call her naked , if she fails to pay loan on time .
She attempted suicide today.
Please share max until it reaches @PMOIndia . pic.twitter.com/nD9evsGrhl
Some victims of bullying and harassments by recovery agents reportedly committed suicide in recent months. Gadgets 360 learnt that the Hyderabad police sent a list of 286 apps in total from their arrests to Google over harassing cases. The company assured that it would continue to work with law enforcement agencies in their investigation on the matter.
On Wednesday, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) responded to the recent concerns raised by customers and formed a working group to look at digital lending in the country. The central bank is, however, yet to frame specific rules around lending apps in the country.
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