Alphabet Inc.’s Google has removed some lending apps targeted at consumers in India from the Play Store in an effort to protect users, it said in a blog post on Thursday.
Suzanne Frei, Vice President, Product, Android Security and Privacy said in the post, “We have reviewed hundreds of personal loan apps in India, based on flags presented by users and government agencies.”
A recent Reuters investigation found at least 10 lending apps on the Play Store that violated Google’s rules on loan repayment lengths aimed at protecting vulnerable borrowers. It was also found that several lending apps also violated central bank regulations designed to protect borrowers.
Google did not elaborate on the number of apps that were taken down.
Google has approached the companies and asked them to clarify if they fail to comply with the rules and regulations, failing which an app can be removed from the Play Store.
“We ask you to confirm within five days of this mail whether you hold an existing approval or license from the Reserve Bank of India recognized as an NBFC (non-banking financial company) or to offer any such services. Are also registered under applicable state law. Or as a designated NBFC / bank’s designated agent offering services on your app, ”the email said, a copy of which has been seen by Reuters.
“If we do not receive this confirmation from you within 5 days of this mail, your app may be removed from Google Play.”
The online lending industry has come to the attention of authorities after at least two suicides in the past few months, which have been linked to alleged harassment by agents of recovery of such apps.
A Reuters review of the 50 popular lending apps available found almost all the necessary borrowers to allow access to their phone contacts, which are used by recovery agents in case of default or late payment by users.
Google stated that developers should only use the permissions that are required to implement current features and services.
Google stated in its post, “They should not use permissions that provide access to user or device data for undisclosed, non-implemented or denied features or purposes.”
It added that it would ensure apps that comply with local laws and regulations. “Apps that fail to do so will be removed without notice,” it said.
On Wednesday, the central bank set up a working group to look into ways to provide digital lending. The panel is tasked with identifying risks posed by financial stability, unregulated digital loans to regulated entities and consumers and is expected to submit the report within three months.