The Federal Government of Nigeria through the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) said it has made a request to Google to remove 4 loan apps being used for unethical practices from the Play Store. The apps to be removed are Maxi Credit, Here4U, ChaCha, and SoftPay.
The Commission says its investigations revealed that the listed apps are owned by other popular apps that are under investigation for unethical practices and breach of consumer privacy. Specifically, it mentioned Soko Loan as the company behind several other apps being used to circumvent the efforts of the Commission.
Last year August, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) fined Soko Lending Company Limited (Soko Loans) the sum of N10 million for privacy invasion. Soko loan app was subsequently removed from the app store following the request of the FCCPC.
Speaking, the Executive Vice Chairman of the FCCPC, Mr. Babatunde Irukera, said: “The information available to the Commission demonstrates that Soko Lending appears to be the most consequential digital money lender with multiple apps and brand names covering a significant share of the digital/online lending market, and one of the most prolific actors in violating consumer privacy, fair lending terms, and ethical loan repayment t/recovery practices.”
“Prior to today’s operation, the Commission had previously, on March 11. 2022 carried out a similar enforcement action with respect to multiple lenders, which action and continuing investigation have reduced previously high and escalating unethical, obnoxious, and unscrupulously exploitative practices in the industry. However. some of the lenders who have been subject of investigation have devised methods to leverage technology and other financial services alternatives to circumvent account freezing and app suspension Orders. With the operations today, the Commission expects an appreciable additional reduction in these unacceptable practices,” he added.
“The Commission has also today entered further orders that will disable or diminish violators’ ability to devise circumvention efforts or alternative mechanisms to circumvent the objective of the investigation and protection of citizens. Particularly, the Commission has entered further Orders to Google Play Store to draw down the following apps which were discovered to be created and operating as a circumvention of existing investigative interventions; Maxi Credit, Here4U, ChaCha, and SoftPay.
“The commission has ordered all operating payment systems including Fluttewvave, Opay, Paystack and Monify to immediately cease and desist providing payment or transaction services to lenders under investigation or not otherwise operating with applicable regulatory approvals. The Commission has also ordered telecommunication/ technology companies (including Mobile Network Operators (MNOs)) to cease and desist providing server/hosting, or other key services such as connectivity to disclosed or known lenders who are targets/subjects of investigation or otherwise operating without regulatory approval,” he said.
Irukera added that for apps not on the Play Store, the Commission would continue to trace what platforms they are hosted on in order to disable them. He also urged members of the public to provide it with any information they have in that regard.
lenders; which action and continuing investigation has reduced previously high and escalating unethical, obnoxious and unscrupulously exploitative practices in the industry.’’
The FCCPC boss noted that some of these online lenders who had been subject of investigation had devised methods to leverage on technology and other financial services alternatives to circumvent account freezing and app suspension Orders.
He said, “With the operations today, the commission expects appreciable additional reduction in these unacceptable practices.
“The commission has also today entered further Orders that will disable or diminish violators’ ability to devise circumvention efforts or alternative mechanisms to circumvent the objective of the investigation and protection of citizens.’’
Going further, he said the Order requires permission to proceed in digital lending and provides a limited moratorium period for existing businesses to comply in order to continue in digital lending.
Irukera added, “The guidelines also mandate different service providers in the relevant ecosystem such as banks, access/download platforms or stores, technology providers and payment systems to require regulatory approval before providing services.
“The commission expresses its gratitude to victims and citizens who have provided information or contributed to the investigation; and welcomes the continuing engagement that provides the relevant information or intelligence through the already established and publicised channels.’’