This article was published on January 14, 2021

Google removes shady loan apps from its India Play Store — but the damage is done

Google removes shady loan apps from its India Play Store — but the damage is done

After the loss of several lives and millions of rupees, Google India has finally removed hundreds of shady loan apps from Play Store in the country.

These loan apps, the majority of them with Chinese connections, gave out small to mid-sized loans to people, and then used harassment and threats to recover that money.

The search giant says that it reviewed hundred of personal loan apps in the country based on user and government agency reports, and removed the ones that were violating its policy. However, the company hasn’t specified any number. It has asked the remaining loan apps to prove that they’re compliant with the country’s laws.

The removal comes after numerous reports dating back to last year that noted suspicious operating mechanisms of these apps. Google’s own developer policy notes that lending apps are not allowed to offer loans that require repayment under 60 days. Despite that, several apps were operating on the platform.

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In August, we reported that a duo of apps called Moneed and Momo, operated under Chinese management, leaked data of hundreds of millions of Indians. After the report was published, several people contacted us and showed us threatening texts by people allegedly acting as agents for those apps.

These loan apps operated on a large scale and have caused financial losses raking up to millions of dollars. According to a report published by the Times of India, cops were investigating a case involving a Chinese national, whose four illegal loan companies had raked up ₹21,000 crores (over $2 billion). And that’s just one instance.

In the last 30 days, police have arrested several people allegedly involved in this instant loan scam in various cities including Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Pune, Mumbai, and Delhi.

While Google has banned some of these apps, there might still be many active apps on the Play Store. A report from the Ken noted that according to a consumer protection collective called Cashless Consumer, 80% of loan apps analyzed by it had Chinese connections and store user data in China. The report noted that there are more than 4,000 instant loan apps on the Play Store, and many of them breach India’s financial rules on lending regularly.

Google will need to take a stricter stance and actively monitor all lending apps to ensure that they are operating in a lawful manner to avoid any more harm.

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