Google said it has removed over 2,000 personal loan apps — or more than half of the total apps in the category — from Google Play India since the beginning of the year, mainly due to user safety concerns.
Senior Director and Head of Trust & Safety for Google Asia-Pacific Saikat Mitra said, “Supported by local research and feedback from our stakeholders, we have been updating the Google Play policies associated with personal loan apps in India.”
Mitra added that the technology giant has been assisting law enforcement agencies in their investigation.
The issue of unregulated personal loan apps attracted attention after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) came up with a regulatory framework. The central bank has recommended a law for Banning of Unregulated Lending Activities (BULA) to safeguard borrowers from predatory lending, harassment, and blackmail.
Mitra said that once an app is uploaded to Google Play, it goes through a series of scans, both from a technical and content point of view. “But in the case of loan apps, the criminal activities are happening outside of the apps in the real world.”
Several borrowers have complained of harassment and blackmailing on loan repayment on the platforms.
“Ever since we came to know about user harm due to predatory practices adopted by some of the personal loan apps, we have been engaging with the industry and law enforcement agencies to help address these issues,” Mitra said.
Mitra added Google has been deploying its artificial intelligence/machine learning capabilities to penalise bad actors on the Play Store.
The issues with the loan apps could be easily solved in countries like Indonesia as there was a list of government-certified apps, Mitra said. “The problem with the lending apps operating in India was unique as the apps may look perfect but still be a threat to the users in the real-world.”
When asked if a blanket ban over personal loan apps was the solution, Mitra said, there was a real user value in personal loan apps. “Especially after the pandemic and the job losses, people do need access to credit. For every bad loan app, there are dozens of good apps,” he said.