ISLAMABAD: To protect the public from falling into debt traps of illegal loan apps, around 120 illegal loan apps that were previously available on Google Play and Apple stores.

The measures was taken by the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), in collaboration with Google, Apple, and the Pakistan Telecomm­unication Autho­rity (PTA), in view of the recent proliferation of illegal personal loan apps, raising concerns of misuse, data privacy violations and coercive recovery practices.

According to the SECP, it has not only strengthened its regulatory framework for licensed Non-Banking Fina­nce Comp­anies (NBFCs), but has also taken effective measures in coordination with relevant authorities to shut down unauthorised and illegal loan apps.

Through vigilant surveillance and complaints recei­ved via the SECP’s dedicated complaint site, the regulator identified 120 unlawfully operating personal loan apps. It promptly reported these apps to Google, Apple, and the PTA for blocking, and also referred them to the FIA for further action in accordance with the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act of 2016.

The SECP has stated that it regularly checks the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store for the presence of any illegal apps.

As a result of the SECP’s efforts and ongoing engagement, Google has introduced Pakistan’s Personal Loan App Policy, according to which Google only allows SECP-approved Personal Loan Apps to be listed on its Google Play Store.

Personal loan borrowers are advised to obtain loans only from licensed NBFCs. The SECP’s regulatory framework for approved apps requires transparent disclosure of fees, loan duration, instalments, and charges.

Moreover, the SECP has initiated inspections of licensed NBFCs that provides loans through apps to verify that these entities are not engaged in miss-selling, data privacy breaches, or coercive recovery practices, etc.

The commission has also urged the general public to report any illegal loan app or illegal investment schemes, as well as express their concerns in case of any misconduct by the licensed NBFCs too by filing complaints at SECP’s dedicated complaint portal.

Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2023

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