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Google pulls another ‘rogue’ loan app | India News


NEW DELHI: A “rogue” loan app, Udhaar Loan, which thrived under a name that resembles another app, was pulled from the Google PlayStore on Tuesday for violating the tech giant’s “trademark” policies.
Udhaar Loan used to offer credits at extremely high interest rates and looked like the name of a genuine Indian startup, Udhaar, to build its credibility, a phenomenon researchers say is quite common. Udhaar provides alternative credit rating mechanisms for “underserved persons”.
Udhaar co-founder Ravi Sethia had filed a complaint with Google almost a month ago about the “dishonest” loan application, claiming that it copied his organization’s name, which the company’s founders had registered as a trademark in 2016. A Google spokesperson confirmed to TOI that the app was removed.
“We do not allow apps or developer accounts that infringe the intellectual property rights of others (including trademarks, copyrights, patents, trade secrets, and other proprietary rights). Our policies also do not allow apps that encourage or induce infringement of rights. We respond to clear notices of suspected copyright infringement, “a Google spokesperson said by email in response to a TOI inquiry about why the Udhaar loan was canceled.
Udhaar Loan had previously found out when users on Twitter shared a screenshot in which an app operator threatened a girl with sending her nude photos after she defaulted on a payment. The Tamil Nadu girl eventually tried to commit suicide by blackmail.
“In November, several people started tagging me on Twitter saying that Udhaar was threatening women. Our company was not involved in any of those cases. We also received many email threats stating that we were breaking the law. So I complained that the app used our name to mislead other consumers with Google more than three weeks ago, “Sethia told TOI.
Experts have pointed out that Udhaar Loan also violated other policies, including those on financial services. They also emphasized the importance of stricter regulation of apps on the PlayStore and more transparency about why Google didn’t remove the app when it was flagged the previous November.
Fintech researcher Srikanth L has studied ten of those apps that violated Google’s policies on financial services. Following a query sent by TOI, Google had removed nine of them, but Udhaar Loan remained on the platform. Srikanth also noted that Udhaar Loan downloads increased from 640k to 1.09M installs in one month, a development that could have been prevented with swift action.
“It seems that the people who developed these applications bought some software kits that allow them to create these applications easily. Generally purchased in China, these kits also give them access to over thousands of fake reviews and downloads. So when people The vulnerable saw excellent ratings, they thought the apps were genuine, “said Srikanth, coordinator of Cashless Consumers, a citizen-led collective that raises awareness about digital transactions and the ecosystem.
“A common feature among these applications is that they have no legal entity in India. It is possible that some money will be laundered through this as all of these transactions will be outside the regulatory purview of RBI. They also did not include the numbers of any complaint officers and did not have a valid address in the Play Store, “Srikanth had previously told TOI.
According to Srikanth, these applications asked for more permissions than required and some even had access to users’ galleries, putting their private data at risk. “Since these apps are not regulated, they don’t follow any rules. They employ a wide range of intimidation tactics, including calling borrowers’ contacts to embarrass them. There are also cases of executives threatening to make private images public in case of default, “he said.
Srikanth believes that the only way to reduce the effectiveness of these rogue apps would be through awareness, better regulation, and increased digital literacy. “We need to have more informed consumers who understand the difference between fake and legitimate applications. Platforms like Google also need to strengthen their application store policies so that these applications do not reach the top of their Playstore list, “he added.

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