Google said today that it has ‘immediately removed’ personal loan apps from the Play Store in India for violating its user safety policies. Google said in a blog post that it reviewed hunders of personal loan apps in the country based on flags submitted by users and government agencies. This comes after several users reported issues of some mobile apps that offer short-term loans harassing customers in case of non-payments. Some users even said that the apps were accessing their contact details, which were used by recovery agents to bully them.
Google did not provide the number of apps that it has removed in the most recent removal. Google has also mentioned that the developers of the remaining ‘personal loan’ apps have been asked to demonstrate that they are complying with the applicable local laws and regulations. “Apps that fail to do so will be removed without further notice,” Suzanne Frey, vice president of product, Android Security and Privacy, said in the blog post. According to a Reuters investigation, at least 10 Indian lending apps on Google Play Store had no clarity on repayment lengths, which is a clear breach of Google’s rules for apps offering personal loans.
Google only allows personal loan apps with full repayment required in greater than or equal to 60 days from the date of the loan issued. Some affected customers, according to an NDTV report, informed local authorities that various short-term loan apps were charging a hefty interest that they weren’t aware of while applying for the loan. It has also been found that in many cases, the lending apps were accessing contacts that were used to harass the customers in case of defaults or late payments.
In the Google blog post, 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 undisclosed, unimplemented, or disallowed features or purposes,” she said.
Google has also stared sending emails to the developers of lending apps to furnish documents related to approvals or licenses within five days. The NDTV report cites sources as saying that Google has delisted at least 100 apps fom the Play Store in the last 10 days. On Wednesday, the RBI responded to the recent concerns raised by customers and formed a working group to look at digital lending in the country.