Google has removed five digital lending apps from its Android Play Store, the Times of India reported. The five apps include OkCash, Go Cash, Flip Cash, ECash and SnapIt Loan, all of whom offer short-term digital loans at high interest rates. But since these are unregulated entities, they were in violation of Google’s policies, the report said.

Recently, several complaints emerged on social media websites stating that executives, purportedly employed by these apps, were harassing borrowers through various means with regards to their loan repayment. In one case, a borrower from Tamil Nadu who complained about the harassment they faced committed suicide, the report says.

In June 2020, the Reserve Bank of India issued guidelines to banks and non-bank lenders providing digital loans stating that since some lenders either provide credit “directly through their own digital platforms or through a digital lending platform under an outsourcing arrangement,” there were issues of transparency. Therefore, it directed all banks and non-banks to disclose their name to the borrower upfront and in loan sanction letters, list all digital lending partners on their website and adhere to the RBI’s fair Practices Code guidelines in letter and spirit.

“It has further been observed that the lending platforms tend to portray themselves as lenders without disclosing the name of the bank/ NBFC at the backend, as a consequence of which, customers are not able to access grievance redressal avenues available under the regulatory framework. Of late, there are several complaints against the lending platforms which primarily relate to exorbitant interest rates, non-transparent methods to calculate interest, harsh recovery measures, unauthorised use of personal data and bad behavior.” — RBI Circular June 24, 2020.

In November 2019, Google issued a new developer policy, which stated that personal loan apps which require repayment in full within 60 days from the date of issuance would not be allowed on the Play Store. It mandated such apps to disclose the minimum and maximum period for repayment, the maximum Annual Percentage Rate (APR), which includes interest rate plus fees and other costs for a year, and the total cost of the loan, including all applicable fees.

However, in a November 10, blog post Srikanth L, a coordinator with Cashless Consumer, a citizen led collective, identified 10 such lending apps which had gained between 400,000 to 1 million users in a short span of 2–3 months. These apps purportedly have their servers hosted on Alibaba cloud, he said. “But all these apps appear to have no legal entity in India,” Srikanth wrote, saying they were operated by middlemen. “It is quite possible that some money is laundered through this as well, as all these transactions will be outside the regulatory purview of RBI.”

The remaining apps, identified by Srikanth, include Rupee Factory, Bily Cash, Udhaar Loan, One Hope, Paisa Loan and Liquid Cash.

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