Couple dies by suicide due to harassment by loan app agents in Andhra Pradesh

A couple in Andhra Pardesh died by suicide due to harassment by agents of a loan app. Subsequently, the state’s chief minister YS Jagan Moah Reddy directed officials to take stringent action against the online money-lending apps for harassment and blackmailing users.

According to a report by ANI news agency, the couple Durgarao and Ramya Lakshmi, had taken loans from different loan apps. As they could not repay the amount, the loan agents started threatening them by saying that they would share their inappropriate photos on social media.

The chief minister has directed East Godavari district collector Madhavi Latha to hand over financial assistance of 5 lakhs each to the children of the victim.

Last month search engine giant Google informed that it removed more than 2,000 loan applications from Play Store in India since January this year for violating terms, misrepresenting information, and questionable offline behaviour.

The tech giant also looks to tighten policies in the coming weeks for greater checks in this space, a senior official said.

The loan app problem has “peaked”, and may subside given the focus and attention the issue is garnering, Saikat Mitra, Senior Director and Head of Trust and Safety, Google APAC (Asia Pacific region) said.

“We are in the process of some more policy changes that are going to come out in a matter of few weeks…which will make it more explicit on requirements…,” he said, adding that the proposed move will lead to tighter checks.

The nature of the ‘loan app’ problem varies between markets, said Mitra and added that in India it is a combination of misrepresentation, non-compliance with policies and regulations, and improper offline or “real world” behaviour of such apps on recovery and other actions.

“It entails questions like….is the loan app prominently disclosing what people are signing up for, the rates for instance…are you tied-up with approved NBFC or bank…Is that bank on the blacklist of RBI… it also gets into offline things for which we don’t have visibility but we get inputs from law enforcement agencies,” he elaborated.

On the issue of new regulations and government policies, Mitra said “as and when regulation comes, we work very closely with the government and industry”.

“We think, we all are trying to achieve the same goals…which is respecting privacy and security. We feel our policies should actually help us achieve that. As and when regulation comes, we have a dialogue and we ensure that we present our perspective,” he said.

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