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Collective releases list of 426 ‘rogue’ lending apps available on Google PlayStore – Times of India


NEW DELHI: A citizen collective, engaged in raising awareness around digital payments, has released a list of 426 “rogue” lending apps available on Google PlayStore. Many of these apps, researchers say, indulge in “abusive lending practices” and seek wide-ranging intrusive permissions from users. TOI has sent a detailed questionnaire to Google about the list but the technology giant had not responded till the filing of this report.
The database, compiled by Cashless Consumers and Banbreach, includes apps that offer loans to users at extremely high interest rates and then allegedly deploy several tactics, including harassment and threats, for repayment. According to researchers who worked on the list, many of these apps are also entangled in “possibly fraudulent/illegal activities, including but not limited to money laundering, extortion”.
“We have collected details of 426 lending apps from Google Play — most of which are Chinese Whitelabel based apps — some of which operate in larger South-East Asia. We also have details of 260 apps that are currently not in Playstore,” fintech researcher and coordinator at Cashless Consumer, Srikanth L, wrote on Twitter on Monday.

Most of these apps ask for permissions like viewing the user’s phone gallery, reading their text — information seemingly unrelated to money lending. “Of the 426, only 201 apps has (sic) a website, only 47 have mentioned an address (which could be fake too). We demand #GooglePlay must make these 2 fields mandatory for digital lending apps, just as how developer Email and privacy Policy are mandatory,” he also tweeted.
According to Google’s terms and services, “apps that expose users to deceptive or harmful financial products and services” are not allowed on PlayStore. The technology giant also claims that apps providing financial services “must comply with state and local regulations for any region or country that your app targets.”
According to researchers, most of these apps originated from China and did not have any tie-ups with legitimate banks or non-banking financial corporations, a condition essential for offering loans in India. That’s why the transactions carried out by these apps fall outside the regulatory purview of RBI, researchers say.
Exploitative instant money lending apps had become common during the Covid-19 lockdown this year. Not authorised by any financial regulator, they were available for download on Google Playstore for over three months. Following queries sent by TOI to Google, the technology giant took down at least nine of them in November.
On December 23, the verified handle of RBI had also tweeted about these apps, warning people against downloading them. “RBI Cautions against unauthorised Digital Lending Platforms/Mobile Apps,” India’s central bank had tweeted along with a link to a statement, which recognised the rising number of people falling prey to such apps.

Recently, Telangana police had asked Google to remove 158 apps from the PlayStore for “harassing and shaming” defaulters.





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