Apple removed several predatory lending apps from the App Store in India this week, days after users and media questioned the legitimacy of those services.
Pocket Kash, White Kash, Golden Kash and OK Rupee are among the apps that Apple pulled from the store this week. The apps offered fast-track lending to consumers in India, climbing to the top 20 of the finance list on the App Store in recent weeks. But they also levied outrageously superfluous charges, according to hundreds of user reviews.
The lenders also employed downright unethical tactics to get the borrowers to pay back.
“I borrowed an amount in a helpless situation and […] a day before repayment due date I got some messages with my pic and my contacts in my phone saying that repay your loan otherwise they will inform our contacts that you r not paying loan,” a user review from last month said.
The apps — whose developers had strange names and suspicious websites — were littered with hundreds of similar reviews, some sharing even more alarming threats that they allegedly received from the lenders.
TechCrunch reached out to Apple for comment on Monday and two days later the firm had pulled at least half a dozen apps.
Apple confirmed to TechCrunch it had removed the apps, saying they violated Apple Developer Program License Agreement, and guidelines. The apps were also “falsely representing an association with a financial institution,” Apple said it found.
“The App Store, and our App Review Guidelines, are designed to ensure we are providing the safest experience possible to our users,” Apple said. “We do not tolerate fraudulent activity on the App Store, and have stringent rules against apps and developers who attempt to cheat the system.”
“As our recent analysis showed: the App Store stopped over $2 billion in fraudulent transactions in 2022, rejected nearly 1.7 million app submissions for failing to meet Apple’s standards of quality and safety, and terminated 428,000 developer accounts for potentially fraudulent activity.”
The burgeoning fintech landscape in India has unsettlingly also given rise to predatory lending apps. Their proliferation is intrinsically tied to the nation’s rising smartphone adoption and a stark economic need. Some digital platforms, exploiting regulatory loopholes, are offering almost instantaneous, but unsecured loans, albeit with interest rates that are staggeringly high.
The underprivileged, typically without easy access to traditional financial services, find themselves susceptible to such practices. The situation has only worsened with the COVID-19 pandemic, a crisis that deepened financial insecurities due to widespread job losses and reduced incomes.
The store from Google, whose Android mobile operating system dominates the smartphone market in India, has historically been the primary platform for predatory lending apps in the country. Both Google and the nation’s central bank have intervened aggressively in the past year to rectify the situation, mandating that lending apps communicate their terms transparently to users and limit their access to personal data.