Over 2,000 loan apps deleted since January, Google says problem is ‘offline’

Even though it has removed over 2,000 loaner apps from the Indian Play Store for various violations, Google has yet to take a strong stance against apps in this category – with several cases of people being defrauded of hundreds of crores having emerged – the way it has against real-money fantasy gambling apps, since the company sees “real value to the user” in the lending apps category, a senior executive said.

The company said it removed more than 2,000 loaner apps from the Indian Play Store since January this year for violating terms, misrepresenting information and questionable offline behavior.

Responding to questions posed by The Indian Express on how these lending apps manage to integrate with Google’s Play Store despite the verification checks – involving both automated and human intervention – employed by the company, Saikat Mitra, Head of Trust and Safety for APAC at Google, said apps typically go through automated technical analysis and content policy review.

“In the case of loan applications, there are a series of checks that are made, such as the interest rate that is specified. We recently had a policy change that required loan applications to mention to which subscriber they There are some cases where we even have a human looking at it… but we have to understand that the problem with loan applications is what we call the “bad offline”, which means that all the harmful things happen outside of the app,” he said, adding that Google is working “very closely” with law enforcement agencies to take input and take action on apps. problem loans.

Saying the lending app problem may have “climaxed,” Mitra said Google is working on an updated lending app policy that could focus on cross-checking subscribers reported by app developers. loan applications.

When asked why Google hasn’t taken a tough stance against lending apps, Mitra said Google finds “real value for the user” in the former. “Is there any real user value in this (lending apps) the answer is yes. Of course what happens on some lending apps is really annoying, but for every bad lending app there is probably dozens if not hundreds of good loan applications, which are underwritten by an RBI or NBFC licensed bank,” he said.

Over the past couple of years, there has been a significant proliferation of dodgy loan apps – both on the Google Play Store and on the internet – that rely on authoritative loan collection and list access. contacts a person with threats of sending defamatory messages. to their contacts. Such cases have emerged across the country, forcing people to repay far more than they originally borrowed, and there have been reports of harassment and suicide.

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The threat caught the attention of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), local police and other authorities. According to the findings of an RBI task force, published in November 2021, up to 600 of the 1,100 lending apps currently available to Indian Android users across 80 app stores are illegal apps. And as the number of loan applications increases, this trend would increase because a user downloading a loan application cannot determine whether it is legitimate or not. It is also likely that several copycat apps and websites are proliferating on the internet.

In a set of guidelines issued earlier this month, the RBI sought to restrict lenders’ access to customer data and further disclose the interest they charge.

Lance B. Holton