Google Removes 5 Loan Apps From Play Store Over Complaints

New Delhi: Tech giant Google has removed several digital lending apps, unauthorized by a financial regulator, from its Google Playstore app download platform. These malicious apps were there on the platform for over three months and their names sounded like legitimate companies that confused users.

According to a recent You report, these unregulated loan applications offered users short-term credit at very high interest rates. In some cases. these apps even harassed or abused borrowers for repayment. Following requests sent by the nationwide daily to Google, the tech giant has removed five of those apps, including Ok Cash, Go Cash, Flip Cash, ECash, and SnapItLoan.

The publication cited FinTech researcher Srikanth L, who has studied at least 10 of these apps, as saying, “These unauthorized apps grew during lockdown when people needed money fast. The names of the apps looked like legitimate companies. A lot of people have done
can’t tell the difference between the two. They have been downloaded by at least 400,000 to 1 million people “,

A Google spokesperson told the publication last week, “Our policies for Google Play developers are designed to protect users and keep them safe, and we recently expanded our financial services policy to help protect users. people against deceptive and abusive personal loan terms. When violations are found, we act “,

Note that, according to Google’s policies, if an app “contains or promotes financial products and services,” it must comply with state and local regulations in any region or country. However, Srikanth’s research revealed that these apps had their servers hosted on Alibaba Cloud, a Chinese company.

The report further quoted Srikanth as saying, “A common feature of these apps is that they have no legal entity in India. It is possible that some of the money will be laundered through this, as all of these transactions will be outside the regulatory jurisdiction of RBI. They also did not list the numbers of a grievance officer and did not have a valid address listed on the Play Store. “

In fact, recently one of these apps, still available on the PlayStore, came to light when several users pointed out that it was harassing people during the refund process. A screenshot went viral on Twitter, showing an app executive asking a girl to send him nude photos after she defaulted on her payment. The girl from Tamil Nadu, tired of the harassment, finally tried to kill herself. Another of the borrowers left a comment on the Playstore about his experience, claiming that company executives called him and mistreated him because he was only one day late with his repayment .

These apps are also a huge threat to privacy. Srikanth told the post that these apps ask for more permissions than necessary, and some even have access to users’ smartphone galleries, putting their private data at risk. Since these apps are unregulated, they don’t follow any rules. In addition, unlike banks and NBFCs which are regulated, these platforms employ a wide range of intimidation tactics, including calling on borrower contacts to shame them.

He further said there had been cases of executives threatening to release private photos of users for non-payment. He added that apart from removing the Playstore, the only way to reduce the effectiveness of these malicious apps would be through awareness, better regulation and increased digital literacy.

“We need to have more informed consumers who understand the differences between malicious apps and legitimate apps. Platforms like Google also need to strengthen their app store policies so that these apps do not appear at the top of their playstore list, ”he said.

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