ALMOST on a daily basis Nigerians have recently received text messages like the following: “Your friend, Mr. Donald Drum, is a dubious person, a thief and a fraudster who has been swindling people for weeks now. This person got a loan from our company but he refused to pay it back. He totally refused to take our calls. Be informed that this person has been declared wanted. He gave us your contact details and registered you as a surety. Please advise him to pay or face jail time. If he doesn’t, it will affect you and him as we will take all legal steps to get our money back from this criminal. This is of course the crudest form of defamation, personal injury and cyberbullying by online loan companies, but the act of sending unsolicited and defamatory text messages to people whose contact details are listed on a persisted defaulter’s phone.
Usually, these fintech companies pretend to give their clients unsecured loans, requiring applicants to download their (companies) mobile apps to their phones and activate a direct debit that allows the app to access phone contacts. client. Appreciated by the weaknesses of the Nigerian state where the agencies to which consumer protection has been entrusted behave like captive regulators, these loan companies have integrated in their applications, trackers sharing data with third parties without informing clients. . Now, because the rates companies charge are outrageous, customers default is routine which is why they send embarrassing SMS and Whatsapp messages aimed at shaming defaulters and their contacts, carefully posting details, including including the full names of the defaulters, their phone numbers and pictures, of what is supposed to be a private transaction between them and their client.
Worried by the activities of these timid societies, the legislator representing the federal constituency of Egbeda / Ona Ara, the Hon. Akin Alabi, tabled a motion last week to reduce their excesses. He said the companies had operated outside the principle of fair and lawful processing of personal data, as required by Nigeria’s data protection regulations and other relevant data protection provisions in the country. While calling on the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to ensure better regulation of financial service providers, he urged the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) to ensure strict compliance with the Nigerian regulation on financial services. data protection by all online loan providers.
Of course, Nigeria is not without existing provisions dealing with offenses committed by donors. In general, cyberbullying or cyberstalking refers to the process of using the Internet, cell phones, or other devices to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person. Indeed, the 2015 law on cybercrime (prohibition, prevention, etc.) defines cyberbullying as any behavior directed against a particular person that would make a reasonable person feel fear. This includes the transmission of any communication through a computer to intimidate, threaten or harass another person where such communication causes that person to fear death, violence or bodily harm. Many defaulting customers have reported that FinTech companies have threatened them with death.
In an informative way, NITDA described the debt collection strategy adopted by fintechs as a data sharing violation, warning that no fintech company is allowed to share customer data without due process. According to NITDA spokesperson Hadiza Umah, it was in an attempt to curb the deplorable trend that the agency imposed a penalty of 10 million Naira on an online lending platform, Soko Lending Company Limited. (Sokoloan), for breach of data confidentiality. Umah said the agency had, prior to that date, received a slew of complaints against the company, including unauthorized disclosures, breach of customer privacy and defamation.
Certainly, cyberbullying by online loan companies is a case that should normally be reported to the police. Apparently, the pernicious practice continued unchecked as most of those affected, out of fear or ignorance, did not contact the police or the court. If cases are not reported to the police, they cannot be investigated and brought to justice. But it is also true that if the cases reported to the police were handled well, there would be no need for a new law. For their part, regulatory agencies like NITDA and CBN need to improve their game, enforce sanctions uniformly, and stamp out the ugly activities of loan companies. If the approvals of failing companies were withdrawn, the others would remain standing.
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