Government Implements Stringent Measures to Counteract Fraudulent Loan Apps on Google Play Store

Finance Minister Highlights Proactive Measures in the Removal of Over 2,500 Apps from April 2021 to July 2022

The Indian government has revealed that Google has taken rigorous action against fraudulent loan applications on the Play Store, either suspending or removing more than 2,500 such apps between April 2021 and July 2022. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in response to queries raised in Parliament, highlighted the ongoing collaboration between the government, regulatory bodies, and Google to address the growing menace of fraudulent digital lending apps.

Government’s Proactive Engagement

Minister Sitharaman informed the Lok Sabha that the government is actively involved in discussions with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and various stakeholders to tackle the proliferation of fraudulent loan apps. She stressed that this issue had been continuously within the Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC), an inter-regulatory forum chaired by the Finance Minister. The primary objective is to adopt a proactive stance, enhance cybersecurity preparedness, and promptly take necessary actions to address vulnerabilities in the Indian financial landscape.

Collaboration with RBI and Enforcement Actions by Google

As part of the government’s efforts to curb fraudulent loan apps, the RBI has shared a ‘whitelist’ of legal apps with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (Meity). Meity, in turn, shared this list with Google. Minister Sitharaman disclosed that Google has updated its policy regarding the enforcement of loan lending apps on the Play Store.
Google has incorporated additional requirements with strict enforcement actions specifically for apps operating in India. According to the revised policy, only apps published by Regulated Entities (REs) or those in partnership with REs are allowed on the Play Store. Between April 2021 and July 2022, Google meticulously reviewed approximately 3,500 to 4,000 loan lending apps, resulting in the suspension or removal of over 2,500 fraudulent apps from its platform.

Role of the Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C)

The Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C), under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), has been actively monitoring digital lending apps. The I4C team evaluates apps based on various parameters, utilizing data from the National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal, and promptly reports suspicious apps to Meity for necessary action.

Government Initiatives for Cybercrime Awareness

Minister Sitharaman underscored the government’s dedication to spreading awareness about cyber crimes and protecting the interests of citizens. Notable initiatives include the electronic-Banking Awareness And Training (e-BAAT) program conducted by the RBI, focusing on awareness about fraud and risk mitigation. Additionally, a Nation-wide Intensive Awareness Programme (NIAP) in collaboration with Regulated Entities has been started to educate the public on cyber threats.

Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana (PMMY) Update

In a separate response, Minister Sitharaman shared that as of November 24, 2023, more than 44.46 crore loans amounting to Rs 26.12 lakh crore have been sanctioned under the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana (PMMY). The PMMY aims to provide collateral-free institutional credit up to Rs 10 lakh to eligible individuals with a business plan for a small business enterprise. Loans are categorized as Shishu, Kishor, and Tarun, covering a range of activities in manufacturing, trading, services, and allied agricultural sectors.