On Thursday, Google India announced that it “immediately removed” Play Store personal loan applications for breaching its consumer protection policies. In a blog post, the company wrote that it has checked hundreds of national personal loan applications based on flags submitted by users and government agencies.
The new move comes months after some users posed problems with some smartphone applications that offer short-term loans that harass consumers in the event of non-payments. Any of the clients affected alleged that their contact information were obtained by the applications, which were allegedly used to harass them by recovery officers.
While the new decision did not provide Google with the number of apps being excluded, it claimed that the developers of the remaining apps listed were asked to show that they complied with relevant local laws and regulations. In the blog post, Suzanne Frey, Vice President, Product, Android Protection and Privacy, said that applications that fail to do so would be removed without further notice.
Reuters noted in its investigation that there was no clarification on repayment lengths for at least 10 Indian lending applications on Google Play. That was a direct violation of Google’s rules for personal loan offering apps. Google claimed that it only permitted full repayment required personal loan apps in excess of or equal to 60 days from the date the loan is released.
Some affected customers told local authorities that heavy interest was paid by various short-term loan apps that they were not aware of when applying for loans. It was also found that in many situations, in the event of defaults or late payments, the lending apps accessed contacts that were used to threaten customers.
Frey claimed that only required permissions to implement current features or services must be sought by developers. For unknown, unimplemented, or disallowed features or purposes, they should not use permissions that offer access to user or system data, she said.
Within five days, Google began sending emails to developers of loan apps to supply documentation relating to permissions or licenses. The Udhaar Loan app that was pulled in late December, after its recovery agents were found harassing some customers, seemed to be one of the first apps that Google withdrew.
In recent months, several victims of bullying and abuse by rehabilitation officers have reportedly committed suicide. From their arrests to Google over harassing incidents, Hyderabad police sent a list of 286 apps in total. In its investigation into the matter, the company ensured that it will continue to cooperate with law enforcement authorities.
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) reported on Wednesday to recent customer concerns and formed a working group to look at the country’s digital lending. However, the central bank has yet to frame clear rules across the country’s lending apps.