In a move to protect its users, internet search engine Google today removed several personal loan apps from its Play Store from where a vast majority of Indians download phone applications. It reviewed the products based on user inputs and alert issued by government agencies, and has also issued notices to many others in the same business.
“We have reviewed hundreds of personal loan apps in India, based on flags submitted by users and government agencies. The apps that were found to violate our user safety policies were immediately removed from the Store. Apps that fail to do so will be removed without further notice,” said Suzanne Frey, Vice-President for Product, Android Security, and Privacy said in a blog post.
“In addition, we will continue to assist the law enforcement agencies in their investigation of the issue,” she wrote.
Google’s move comes a day after a Chinese national and an Indian were arrested today from Thane as part of the Telangana police’s probe into an instant loan apps scam. At least 31 people, including four Chinese nationals, have been arrested in the multi-crore scam suspected to be operated through shell companies that lend small sums against steep interest rates and harass borrowers who fail to repay.
In this context, Google has stipulated some requirements for loan apps to make use of the Play Store platform. This includes providing proof of licence to operate, evidence that local laws are being followed, and disclosure of rate of interest along with the minimum and maximum period of repayment, among others. It will not allow any product that offers loan for less than 60 days, the company has said.
“We believe transparency of information around 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 deceptive financial products and services,” Ms Frey wrote.
Besides, it has asked the apps not to collect unnecessary information form users and also to not use any information collected for unauthorised purposes.
Fintech expert Srikanth Lakshmanan of Consumer Collective has put together a database of over a thousand such apps, most of which are on Google Play Store, though a few outside of it, too.
“Of these, I suspect hardly 200 are regulated apps. These apps keep returning to Play Store in new avatars,” Mr Lakshmanan told NDTV.