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Google cracks down on payday loan apps in India after reports of abuse

While the Indian smartphone market continues to thrive with a variety of inexpensive and powerful Android smartphones, the proliferation of smartphones provides a large target audience for unscrupulous app developers. Google is removing predatory lending apps that take aim at the most vulnerable customers from the Indian Play Store. As reported by TechCrunch, the company is doing this in response to reports from both users and government agencies. Both groups flagged hundreds of apps to Google as falling afoul of local policies, and the company took action subsequently.

Google told TechCrunch that it had pulled several apps that violated safety policies. It also requested developers of other flagged apps that weren’t pulled for Play Store violations to prove their apps were in compliance with local laws within 5 days of communication.

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A Google spokesperson added:

Apps that fail to do so will be removed without further notice. In addition, we will continue to assist the law enforcement agencies in their investigation of this issue.

Google had previously and publicly banned apps offering payday loans in 2019, but the ban was criticized for being applied selectively just months after.

Bloomberg had reported people living in countries such as India and Kenya were still left vulnerable to apps offering short term loans all the way back in January 2020, noting:

Despite the ban on loans that have to be repaid in fewer than 61 days, many apps available through the Google Play store are offering shorter terms to Kenyans. Some lenders appear to be ignoring the rule, hoping Google, a division of Alphabet Inc., doesn’t notice.

A Google spokesperson then commented that the company would remove violations when they were flagged, a sentiment the company repeated this week.

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