Google Removes 100 Online Loan Apps After Reports Of Harassment And Suicides

Hyderabad: Google has removed around 100 instant online loan applications from December 2020 to January 20, 2021, the central government said.

It comes after several cases of “suicides” were reported in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and other Indian states due to harassment from online pawn shops.

The Department of Electronics and Information Technology has seized Google for the prevention, detection and removal of these fraudulent applications from their Playstore.

Interestingly, it was only after being informed by Indian law enforcement that Google removed 100 money lending apps that may not have complied with the legal and regulatory framework.

Sanjay Dhotre, Minister of State for Electronics and Computing (MeitY) said he has received a number of public grievances against online instant loan applications available on Google Playstore.

The complaints were mainly related to high interest rates, the alleged collection of personal data and its misuse, fraudulent and illegal practices of physical threats and the use of other coercive methods for the recovery of the loan. . Few cases have also been brought to court.

Response from Google:

Google told MeitY that personal loan applications available on the Google Play Store are bound by the terms of the “Google Play Developer Distributor Agreement,” which, among other things, requires app developers to use the Play Store only for purposes permitted by applicable law, regulation, or generally accepted practices or guidelines in the relevant jurisdictions.

According to the “Google Play Developer Policy,” financial services apps that offer personal loans must disclose key information such as minimum and maximum repayment periods, maximum annual percentage rate, and a representative example of the total cost. of the loan. To further ensure that users are not subject to unfair terms, only personal loan applications with full repayment required within 60 days or more from the loan issue date are permitted.

Suicide:

P. Sunil, a 29 year old technician, worked as a software engineer in a private company in Madhapur, Hyderabad. Due to Covid-19, he lost his job and since then he has been unemployed. In order to overcome his debts and meet his regular expenses, he started borrowing from online instant loan applications from his cell phone. He took almost 2 lakh from various instant loan applications.

As he did not repay the amount, some app companies started blackmailing and threatening him by contacting his family members and friends through social media platforms such as WhatsApp. His father and wife got calls from app companies claiming he was in default and threatening to pay him back. Feeling harassed, Sunil committed suicide in Kismathpur on December 16.

It was the first death by suicide due to online app harassment in Telangana. Several others later ended their lives as well. Shaken by suicides, Telangana police carried out a series of raids in Gurgaon, Pune, Maharastra and Bengaluru and arrested five Chinese nationals acting as directors of these instant loan applications.

Operating mode

The gang offers small loans through different apps and collects money by harassing and blackmailing the victims. Loan apps are available on Google Play.

Companies develop their own apps and put them in the Google Play Store for easy download. Some of the apps include Cash Mama, Loan Zone, Dhana Dhan Loan, Cash Up, Cash Bus, Mera Loan, and Cash Zone. Cash Bus and Cash Up were sold to Asia Inno Networks Pvt. Ltd., Delhi and Mera Loan and Cash Zone were purchased by Blue Shield Fintech Pvt. Ltd., Bangalore.

After granting a loan to the clients from their application for a period of seven days, they divide all the clients into different categories. On the due date it is called the J-0 bucket, after the due date from day 1 to day 3 it is S1 bucket, from day 4 to 10 it is an S2 bucket and from day 11 to 30, this is the S3 bucket.

To collect the loan from clients, they use different methods depending on the compartment in which the clients are located. The fewer days after the due date, the milder the treatment. The more days after the due date, the more severe the treatment. Businesses also access customer contacts and send WhatsApp messages to friends and family to defame the defaulter.

As a result of harassment, at least seven people who took out instant loans committed suicide.

Telangana Cybercrime Police have issued a notice asking people not to download instant loan apps from the Playstore or other sources that do not have the proper licenses from government authorities.

“Do not give your personal and banking credentials to anyone. Please read the terms and conditions and check the licenses of the companies offering the loans and check if they have obtained permission from the relevant authorities like the RBI and the district collector.” , indicates the notice. read.

It further warned people to download apps that request access to contacts, files, and galleries.

Where to file a complaint

Any incident / complaint can be reported to (www.cybercrime.gov.in). This portal is routed automatically to the respective state / UT law enforcement agencies based on information provided by the public.