Starting May 31st, Google will introduce new policies for apps offering personal loans to protect users from abuse and harassment in a policy update that many see as a welcome development. Due to reports of problems from some markets such as India, Pakistan, Kenya, and the Philippines, the tech giant has made several changes over the past year. The news first appeared in a TechCrunch report where it highlighted that Google was beginning to take privacy infraction complaints seriously.
Typically, lending apps require access to users’ phone books and news feeds, but these resources, including contacts, photos, and videos, will no longer be accessible.
While these apps are often considered convenient solutions to unexpected financial problems, they often charge high interest rates that can make it difficult for borrowers to make on-time payments. This problem can lead to abuse, where representatives of these businesses rely on abusive communication to borrowers in an attempt to force them to pay. In some cases, the abuse has led to threats against borrowers and their families, and sadly, some people have taken their own lives as a result.
Google’s new policy aims to address these issues and create a safer environment for users. By restricting users’ phone books and news feeds, these apps will no longer be able to send abusive messages to borrowers’ contacts, reducing the likelihood of harassment and abuse on the snow.
To control loan sharks, Google has implemented laws in India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Nigeria, Kenya, and Pakistan, requiring the submission of documents and proof of approval from relevant government agencies. For 2019, the company also banned payday loan apps in the US. with an annualized percentage of more than 36 percent. In Pakistan, from May 31st, financial institutions other than banks will be allowed to publish only one loan app on the Play Store.
Google had already tightened its screening process for lending apps in the Philippines a year ago. However, despite the stricter rules, there are still a large number of loan apps available on the Play Store, and users regularly report being harassed by agents. Nevertheless, Google’s new policy to block these apps from accessing users’ phonebooks is a positive step in the right direction to address these issues.
In Nigeria, The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) continues to probe digital money lenders for lapses to keep up with the banking standards as well as to protect consumer interest. The FCCPC said back in 2022 that will hold Google accountable for the inability to track the developers of the digital money lenders they flagged from existence after violating consumer interest.
“The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission on November 10, 2021, hosted a meeting attended by the Chief Executive Officer of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and representatives of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN); in leading effort to address the multiple potentially dubious conduct of certain money lenders, otherwise known as loan sharks”, the document showed and according to the FCCPC chief, the committee would be in charge of addressing the practices of these loan companies.