Google has removed hundreds of loan apps from its Play Store in Kenya as part of a new policy requiring digital lenders in the country to submit evidence of licensing, in line with Kenya’s Digital Credit Providers (DCP) regulations that came into force last year. The regulations require entities providing loans digitally to have licenses from the Central Bank of Kenya. By January, only 22 digital lenders, including Tala and Pezesha, had been licensed out of the 381 that had applied. The loan apps provide quick unsecured personal or business loans, but had previously charged exorbitant interest rates, applied debt shaming tactics, and shared customer data with third parties, taking advantage of a lack of regulations.
As a result, Google is cracking down on such practices, requiring loan apps to observe consumer privacy and data protection rights, and comply with anti-money laundering laws. The apps must also disclose the terms and pricing of loans to customers before approval and disbursement. However, it is not clear how many apps have been blacklisted, as Google was not available for comment. But a recent check revealed that almost 500 apps, including MoKash and Okash, had been removed from the finance category on the Play Store, which featured loans, banking, and investing apps.
While Google’s crackdown may be applauded, there are concerns about the impact on legitimate lenders and borrowers who rely on digital credit. The Central Bank of Kenya had previously warned that the crackdown could result in a drop in access to credit, but stressed that it was necessary to prevent fraudulent practices. The situation in Kenya highlights the need for a balance between regulation and innovation in digital lending. The country is a leader in digital finance and has been praised for its pioneering role in mobile money transfer services such as M-Pesa, which enables people to send and receive money via mobile phones. However, the growth of digital lending has also exposed the need for greater consumer protection and regulatory oversight.