Google takes action against loan apps abusing customers in India

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Google India on Thursday revealed that it “immediately removed” personal loan apps from the Play Store for violating its user security policies. The company wrote in a blog post that it has reviewed hundreds of personal loan applications in the country based on flags submitted by users and government agencies. The new move comes months after several users raised concerns against some mobile apps offering short-term loans harassing customers for non-payment. Some of the affected customers claimed that the apps were accessing their contact details, which was allegedly used by recovery agents to intimidate them.

While Google did not provide the number of apps removed by the latest ruling, it did mention that developers of the remaining identified apps have been asked to demonstrate compliance with applicable local laws and regulations.

“Apps that don’t will be removed without further notice,” said Suzanne Frey, vice president, product, Android security and privacy, in the blog post.

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Reuters noted in its investigation that at least 10 Indian loan apps on Google Play had no details on repayment terms. This was a blatant violation of Google’s rules for applications offering personal loans.

Google said it only allows personal loan applications with full repayment required within 60 days or more from the date the loan was granted.

Some affected customers have informed local authorities that various short-term loan applications charge significant interest that they were not aware of when applying for loans. It was also found that in many cases, loan applications accessed contacts that were used to harass customers in the event of default or late payment.

Frey said developers should only request permissions that are necessary to implement current features or services. “They should not use permissions that give access to user or device data for any undisclosed, unimplemented or unauthorized purposes or functionality,” she said.

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Google has started sending emails to loaner app developers to provide documents related to approvals or licenses within five days. Sources close to the development told Gadgets 360 that the company has removed at least 100 apps from the Play Store in the past 10 days. One of the first apps Google removed appears to be the Udhaar Loan app which was taken down at the end of December – after its recovery agents were found to be intimidating some customers.

Some victims of bullying and harassment by debt collectors have reportedly committed suicide in recent months. Gadgets 360 has learned that police in Hyderabad have sent a list of 286 apps in total from their arrests to Google for harassment. The company said it would continue to work with law enforcement in their investigation into the matter.

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The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Wednesday responded to recent concerns raised by customers and formed a task force to review digital lending in the country. However, the central bank has not yet defined specific rules regarding loan applications in the country.


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