The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission for and on behalf of the Joint Regulatory and Enforcement Task Force (“JRETF”) established the Limited Interim Regulatory/ Registration Framework and Guidelines for Digital Lending 2022.
The Guidelines set November 14, 2022 as expiry date for Digital Money Lenders (DMLs) already in business, and existing on Google Playstore to complete the compliance requirements, or risk removal from Playstore.
The expiration date also applied to continuing and uninterrupted service by payment systems and gateways or other financial institutions that provide services to DMLs. On December 6, 2022, the Commission extended the sunset deadline to January 31, 2023, and subsequently provided a final extension until March 27, 2023.
Recently, on June 9, 2023, the Commission recommenced registration of DMLs for businesses not previously in existence during the registration period, or in extenuating and exceptional cases where there is sufficient justifiable reason(s) for failure to previously register for business that was then existing or in operation.
The Commission notes a resurgence in the occurrence of prohibited loan recovery methods and practices in the past weeks.
The Commission’s investigations and continuing surveillance demonstrate that the vast majority of the resurging infringements are not by otherwise approved/listed DMLs approved to be on Playstore and other financial services providers.
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The violating DMLs have resorted to the use of Android Package Kits (APK) file formats. The illegal DMLs provide links to consumers to visit unregistered websites using their Android devices/phones. In the course of that interaction, consumers’ private information that is otherwise protected and prohibited from access or download by DMLs or their apps is accessed and downloaded.
This conduct is prohibited by sundry laws, particularly relevant data privacy protection instruments, and more specifically, the Limited Interim Regulatory/Registration Framework & Guidelines for Digital Lending 2020 of the Commission.
In the course of the Commission’s continuing investigation and tracking of these illegally operating DMLs, the Commission has discovered duplicity by at least two otherwise legally registered DMLs on the Commission’s approval list.
The nature of the duplicity is that the DMLs having been approved and placed on the approved list and Playstore, as well as cleared for services by other financial services/institutions, as an alternate channel, and method of engaging in prohibited conduct, also engaged in the use of APK to attract borrowers to a process and practice that is illegal and unregulated.
The companies or apps so far identified, and for which there is supporting evidence of this malfeasance are Sycamore Integrated Solutions Limited and Orange Loan and Purple Credit Limited. They are the owners of “Getloan” and “Camelloan” respectively, and occupy Nos. 1 and 65 on the Approved List of the Commission, which is available on the Commission’s website.
Accordingly, the Commission has now permanently delisted Sycamore Integrated Solutions Limited and Orange Loan and Purple Credit Limited, along with their respective apps – “Getloan” and “Camelloan”. In addition, the Commission has entered an Order to Google Playstore and other payment and financial service providers, permanently prohibiting the provision of any services associated with digital lending to Sycamore Integrated Solutions Limited and Orange Loan and Purple Credit Limited.
The Commission reiterates that this revocation and action are permanent without option or opportunity of reconsideration, and the same consequence shall apply to all other violators as the Commission discovers them. In addition, all the information and evidence available with respect to these businesses will be transferred to law enforcement agencies and or any other relevant regulator(s).
The Commission has also placed DMLs that have refused or failed to register under the Guidelines on its watchlist for strict surveillance and necessary action. The list of those DMLs will be made available on the Commission’s website.
The Commission will continue to scrutinise listed DMLs and periodically update the list to ensure only businesses that consistently and completely comply with the spirit and intention of the regulatory framework are allowed to do business legally in Nigeria.
As such, the Commission again advises consumers to exercise restraint and discretion in selecting DMLs, and specifically recommends that consumers patronise only DMLs on the Commission’s approved list to diminish, if not eliminate being victims of illegal and prohibited lending and recovery practices.
The Commission further advises consumers to consider only DMLs whose apps can be downloaded from Google’s Playstore, as only those have been subjected to regulatory scrutiny, and the technology associated with their apps precluded from accessing and downloading private information of consumers. All other DMLs are operating illegally.
The Commission and the JRETF continue assiduous efforts to track illegal operators using APK and other means to engage, and interact with consumers, and welcome credible evidence from the public.