Odisha Crime Branch writes to Google to remove 45 loaner apps from its Play Store

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Bhubaneswar: With various illegal loan apps on Google Play Store harassing loanees, who have availed short term loans, the Odisha Crime Branch has written to Google to take down the apps.

In a letter to Legal Investigations Support, Google Inc in the United States, the SP, Economic Offenses Wing (EOW), Crime Branch, Odisha said that following an investigation with information provided by Google on applications illegal loan apps ‘KOKO Loan’ and ‘JOJO Loan’ using Google Play Store, it was found that there were at least 45 such illegal loan apps in use using the platform.

“These loan apps not only violate Indian laws and RBI guidelines but also openly violate your policies (Google APP policy) as stated in your portal,” the SP said. Apart from providing short term loans at very high interest rates without permission from RBI, these lending APPs use illegal methods of harassment, threats, blackmail and use extremely foul language to extort money to people on loan, he added.

The letter also highlighted the following examples of violations of Google’s guidelines:

  • These APPs are deceptive and harmful financial products that harass, blackmail, threaten people to the point that some of them commit suicide.
  • They do not follow local laws/rules.
  • They are not authorized by the Reserve Bank of India.
  • They collect exorbitant illegal rates of annual percentage interest rate.
  • They have no respect for privacy. They gain access to the entire loanee/client contact list and start sending them (the loanee and everyone on their contact list) abusive, humiliating and threatening messages, including altered images if they do not comply with their request.
  • They indulge in loans for a very short period of personal loans requiring full repayment in 15 to 30 days.
  • They keep their clients/borrowers in the dark about the total cost of the loan including principal and all applicable fees, method of calculation etc.

Stating that police in many Indian states are investigating such cases, the SP also said that there have also been reports of many people committing suicide due to illegal, humiliating and torturous activities of these APP loan companies.

Considering these points, the EOW requested Google Play Store to remove all such apps immediately. It is also requested that all such suspicious apps be reviewed by the company’s own team so that action can be taken before they commit such a crime.

The SP further stated during the investigation of the entire scam, it was found that it is the “anonymity” factor of the APP developer/operator on Google Play that gives scope to such illegal practices.

In order to avoid customer harassment, the EOW suggested that no app should be allowed to run in the Google Play Store until it displays information such as the name of the developer and operator of the app. the application, its physical address and contact number, and RBI license details.

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