Google said it removed more than 2,000 personal loan apps – more than half of the category’s total apps – from Google Play India since the start of the year, mostly due to user security concerns.
Senior Director and Head of Trust and Safety for Google Asia Pacific, Saikat Mitra, said, “Supported by local research and feedback from our stakeholders, we’ve updated Google Play’s policies associated with personal loan applications in india”.
Mitra added that the tech giant helped law enforcement with their investigation.
The issue of unregulated personal loan apps drew attention after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) proposed a regulatory framework. The central bank has recommended a law for the prohibition of unregulated lending activities (BULA) to protect borrowers against predatory lending, harassment and blackmail.
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Mitra said that once an app is uploaded to Google Play, it goes through a series of scans, both from a technical and content perspective. “But in the case of lending apps, the criminal activity takes place outside of the apps in the real world.”
Several borrowers have complained of harassment and blackmail to repay loans on the platforms.
“Since becoming aware of the harms caused to users due to predatory practices adopted by some of the personal loan apps, we have engaged with industry and law enforcement to help address these issues,” Mitra said.
Mitra added that Google has deployed its artificial intelligence/machine learning capabilities to penalize bad actors on the Play Store.
Problems with loan apps could be easily solved in countries like Indonesia, as there is a list of government-certified apps, Mitra said. “The problem with lending apps operating in India was unique because apps can look perfect but still be a threat to users in the real world.”
When asked if a blanket ban on personal loan apps was the solution, Mitra said there was real user value in personal loan apps. “Especially after the pandemic and job losses, people need access to credit. For every bad loan application, there are dozens of good applications,” he said.