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Reserve Bank of India To Set Up Digital India Trust Agency To Tackle Illegal Loan App Menace: Report

All digital lending apps need to have the DIGITA approved signature in order to be recognised as authorized apps.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is considering setting up a Digital India Trust Agency (DIGITA) to combat the growing menace of illegal lending apps in the country, according to an Economic Times report. The proposed agency will be entrusted with the responsibility of verifying and maintaining a public register of authorized digital lending apps (DLAs) which can be used by law enforcement officers to weed out illegal loan apps. 

This is RBI’s way of dealing with the cyber fraud menace in the finance sector through unauthorized loan apps that harass customers for repayments and misuse their personal data. 

Once the DIGITA is set up, all such loan apps have to have the DIGITA “verified” signature to be considered as an authorized app. This will be a pivotal checkpoint to fight financial crimes in the digital realm. By vetting the apps thoroughly, the agency aims to weed out those indulging in unethical practices and ensure that only legitimate players operate in the market.

RBI on whitelisting digital lending apps over the years

This comes after RBI, earlier this year, flagged 442 unique lending apps to the IT Ministry for whitelisting with Google. This led Google to remove over 2200 loan apps from its app store between September 2022 and August 2023. Earlier in 2023, Google declared it was banning DLAs from tracking the location of customers and accessing their photos and contacts. 

The tech giant also updated its policy regarding the enforcement of loan apps on the Google Play Store, allowing only those apps that are published by RBI-regulated entities or those working in partnership with regulated entities. This policy change was made at the request of the RBI and the Department of Financial Services under the Finance Ministry.

Earlier in February 2023, RBI refused to share the whitelist of DLAs labelling it as ‘confidential’ in response to an RTI application by Medianama.

“The information sought is exempted from disclosure under Section 8(1)(e) of the RTI Act as the information is collated by RBI from the Regulated Entities under an action point emanating from a meeting convened by Union Finance Minister on September 08, 2022, and the information is provided in the fiduciary capacity and not under any statutory mandate”, said RBI in the RTI response. 

Later in October, 2023 the RBI said sharing a whitelist of digital lending apps could hamper the financial system of India and then in January this year further informed that it is unable to locate the whitelist of DLAs published by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY).

 “From all registered or licensed lenders with the RBI, the banks and the NBFCs, we have collected the list of apps and have given it to the government, the Ministry of Information and Technology, which has uploaded it on their website. […] Now, it’s a long list. The responsibility is more for law enforcement agencies to look at and identify illegal apps. […] We regulate only the banks and NBFCs. So, we have cast the responsibility on our regulated entities to see that the fair code of conduct and fair business practices are adopted by their third-party service providers. But the problem as you said is with regard to the illegal lending apps.”, RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das had said on January 11.

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An editor, fact-checker, digital journalist and SEO content writer with 9 years of experience of covering health, tech, business and political stories.

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