Tech giant Google on Thursday said it has reviewed hundreds of personal loan apps in India that were flagged by users and government agencies and those found to be violating its user safety policies were immediately removed from its Play Store.
Google has asked the developers of the remaining identified apps to demonstrate that they comply with applicable local laws and regulations, failing which those apps will also be removed.
"Providing a safe and secure experience across Google's products is our top priority. Our global product policies are designed and implemented with this goal in mind, and we're always working to improve our practices to enhance user safety," Google said in a blogpost.
Google did not disclose the names of the apps removed.
"We have reviewed hundreds of personal loan apps in India, based on flags submitted by users and government agencies. The apps that were found to violate our user safety policies were immediately removed from the store, and we have asked the developers of the remaining identified apps to demonstrate that they comply with applicable local laws and regulations," the blogpost said.
Apps that fail to do so will be removed without further notice; and in addition, Google will continue to assist the law enforcement agencies in their investigation of this issue, it added.
On Wednesday, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) announced constitution of a working group to suggest regulatory measures to promote orderly growth of digital lending amid rising incidents of harassments relating to online lending.
It had also noted that the recent spurt and popularity of online lending platforms/mobile lending apps has raised certain serious concerns which have wider systemic implications. Last month, RBI had cautioned the public not to fall prey to the growing number of unauthorised digital lending platforms and mobile apps.
In its blogpost, Google said all developers on its Play Store agree to the terms of the Google Play Developer Distribution Agreement, which stipulates that apps must adhere to applicable rules and laws, including generally accepted practices and guidelines.
"In addition, the Google Play Developer Policy requires financial services apps that offer personal loans to disclose key information such as the minimum and maximum periods of repayment, the maximum annual percentage rate, and a representative example of the total loan cost," it added.
To help further ensure that users are making sound choices, Google only allows personal loan apps with full repayment required in greater than or equal to 60 days from the date the loan is issued, it said.
"We believe transparency of information around the features, fees, risks, and benefits of personal loans will help people make informed decisions about their financial needs, thereby reducing the risk of being exposed to deceptive financial products and services," Google added.
The company said developers must only request permissions that are necessary to implement current features or services and that they should not use permissions that give access to user or device data for undisclosed, unimplemented, or disallowed features or purposes.
Developers must also only use data for purposes that the user has consented to, and if they later want to use the data for other purposes, they must obtain user permission for the additional uses, Google emphasised.
"Google Play users expect a safe, secure and seamless experience, and developers come to Play for powerful tools and services that help them build and grow their businesses. Our policies help us deliver on these expectations, and we continue to work hard to ensure Google Play is a platform that supports the entire ecosystem," Google said.
Photograph: Charles Platiau/Reuters.