The Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) has taken notice of the various emerging concerns regarding mobile applications on the Google Play Store offering nano-loans to vulnerable customers.
In a preliminary probe, it was noted that these mobile applications on Google Play Store were offering nano-loans without fulfilling the legal requirements of Non-Banking Micro Finance Companies (NBMFC) law.
The NBMFC law offers a framework to regulate nano-loans above Rs. 10,000, whereas most of these applications are only offering loans smaller than this. As per the initial findings, these applications have well over 10 million downloads.
The findings revealed that these mobile applications had contradictions between interest rates and processing fees charged from the borrower versus the rates advertised. There are also instances of faulty claims of data privacy and security, collecting personal data on the pretext of offering loans, a discrepancy in repayments, and credit range advertised vis-à-vis those offered.
CCP is the first regulatory body that formally initiated an inquiry into the matter in September 2022, to probe possible violations by these mobile applications with regard to Section 10 of the Competition Act 2010. Based on the findings, an inquiry committee was authorized to thoroughly probe and submit an inquiry report to the Commission concerning any or all possible contraventions under the Act against all nano-loan mobile applications.
The inquiry committee has been working on the case rigorously, consulting all the concerned stakeholders and seeking relevant information for deliberating the matter objectively. In this regard, meetings were also held with the Securities & Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).
The Commission’s emphasis in this investigation is to focus on the prohibition of deceptive marketing of these nano-loans to vulnerable consumers and to ensure that there are due disclosures and truth in marketing so that consumers have a choice of making an informed decision.
Locating the owners of these applications has proven to be an impediment in the process of investigation as most of the applications have been observed to be operating from hoax addresses and contact details. Any individual or entity in possession of information regarding these nano-loan apps is also encouraged to share their information. The findings of the inquiry will be placed before the Commission for its decision and further action.
CCP is mandated under the Competition Act to ensure free competition in all spheres of commercial and economic activity, to enhance economic efficiency, and to protect consumers from anti-competitive behavior including deceptive marketing practices.