With an overwhelming rise in notorious betting and online “quick loan” apps in the country, India had been seeing a surge in harassment complaints by consumers, exorbitant interest rates and malicious recovery practices by such loaning and betting companies. The government has now swiftly moved and announced a block on several of such apps, 232 to be precise, with several of them having links to China. The names of the apps have not been revealed.
The move to block the apps was undertaken by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) under the recommendations of the Ministry of Home Affairs. It came once it was ascertained that the apps were in violation of Section 69 of the IT Act and contained material threatening the country’s sovereignty and integrity. The move was further strengthened after complaints poured in from individuals who received harassment and extortion calls after they had taken loans from these apps, after a series of suicides in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana by individuals who had lost money in betting or had taken such loans was revealed.
The apps in question consist of betting and loan lending apps alike (something the RBI has been cracking down on in recent times). A total of 232 apps – 138 betting apps and 94 loan lending apps – are set to be blocked. The betting apps are alleged to be involved in activities such as betting, money laundering, and gambling, and the order to stop them from operating in the Indian market was issued last evening. A similar order to secure the 94 loan lending apps was issued after the apps were discovered to be engaged in unauthorized loan activities. 94 apps were available on the stores, while the others were working through third-party links and were being downloaded through independent links or websites.
These apps and their parent companies were charing exorbitant rates of interest (up to 3000% annually) and once people were lured in to take the loans and unable to repay them, they were harassed to pay the pending amount. According to an official, the apps were being operated by offshore entities – it is even claimed that Indians were in charge of operating the apps. Media reports revealed that the government has been analyzing as many as 288 Chinese apps, and it is likely that these apps have accessed the personal information of Indian citizens. With the move to block the apps, the government is looking to prevent the misuse of citizens’ data.
This digital strike marks the latest batch of Chinese apps to be booted off the Indian market. The government earlier banned 118 Chinese apps in 2021, taking the total number of banned Chinese apps to over 250. This inlcudes well-known apps such as PUBG Mobile, Tiktok, Garena Free Fire, and others.