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Google Will Take Down Unlicensed Lending Apps

According to a senior Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) official, Google has agreed to remove non-licensed digital lending apps from the Pakistani Play Store.

Khalida Habib, the executive director of SECP, said during a workshop on Tuesday that the commission has released guidelines to address issues with data theft and forceful recovery techniques of registered digital lending institutions.

She continued by saying that the dominant search engine has consented to block all illegal digital lending apps from Pakistan’s Google Play, commonly known as the Google Play Store, even though the majority of these apps are run from abroad.

The SECP and the State Bank were consulting on the matter, and after that, Ms Habib stated, the list to delete the apps will be finalised.

The deadline for digital lending companies to modify their applications in accordance with the new regulations is March 27, and following that date, a final list of the apps that will be withdrawn will be prepared.

During negotiations in January 2023, she claimed that 58 illegal digital lending apps had been taken down from Google’s PlayStore.

She stated that the SECP has brought up the issue with the pertinent regulatory bodies, including Google and Apple as well as the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, the Federal Investigation Agency, the National Telecommunication and Information Technology Security Board, and the State Bank.

There are just 10 licenced non-bank finance businesses (NBFCs) that are allowed to make loans at the moment. Since these apps are under the purview of SECP rather than commercial banks, which are supervised by the SBP, they are subject to a different set of regulations.

The SECP official stated, “By the end of next month, entire white-list applications of NBFCs and banks would be compiled and given to Google.”

Several unlicensed businesses have appeared as a result of the expansion of digital lending apps, which enable needy people to obtain short-term loans without providing any collateral. These businesses engage in coercive and illegal lending methods.

Following a rise in complaints, the SECP released “Circular 15” to protect consumers. Before loan distribution, the lenders were required by the circular to make the bare minimum of mandatory disclosures.

From January to November 2022, the NBFCs disbursed loans worth Rs63.58 billion with the authorities expecting the number to double in 2023.

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