Yesterday, Citizen TV aired a news item about online loan apps or digitized loan sharks that have made the life of many Kenyans very difficult following the manner they recover their debts.
The program is a reiteration of what we have covered here before: that loan apps are massively unregulated, harvest personal data, use that data without referring to data protection laws, and charge their customers exorbitant interest rates with the shortest repayment periods of about 10 days.
The TV station had a chat with people who have been harassed by debt recovery agents. It emerged that these people do not have any form of professionalism following their underhand tactics of abusing loanees or even shaming them by sending disparaging messages about their credit to their entire phone books.
It has become so bad that there are cases where agents create WhatsApp groups in an effort to compel the loanee to pay by sheer shaming.
It is for this reason that #DebtOfShame has been trending since yesterday. At the same time, lender Okash has also been mentioned as one of the companies that has been harassing their customers.
Okash is also one member because the online lending space is filled to the brim with apps that offer short-term loans directly to a user’s M-PESA account. The ease of access is perhaps what has made the apps very popular. Heck, the top most downloaded apps in Google Play store are loan apps, edging out popular social media apps such as Facebook and Instagram.
For the moment, the CBK and other regulators are in the process of controlling the space with the CBK Amendment Bill, 2021. Whether the law will be put into force in a timely manner is something that we have to wait and see.
Part of the proposed regulations would see the fintechs registered anew.
“The principal object of this Bill is to amend the Central Bank of Kenya Act to provide for licensing of digital credit service providers, who are not regulated under any other law. The current position is that there is no legal framework governing digital borrowing platforms. As such, the Central Bank of Kenya will have an obligation of ensuring that there is a fair and non-discriminatory marketplace for access to credit,” reads the proposal.
Other proposals include:
- Determine capital adequacy requirements for digital credit providers
- Determine the minimum liquidity requirements for digital credit providers
- Approve digital channels and business models through which digital credit business may be conducted
- Supervise digital credit providers
- Suspend or revoke a license
- Direct or require such changes as The Bank may consider necessary.
Back in 2016, there were only 200K digital borrowers. But with the struggling economy, job losses and the harsh effects of the pandemic, people have been forced to borrow heavily, a move that has seen online borrowers grow to 2 million as of 2021!
The regulator has not said anything about the unorthodox methods used for debt recovery, and whether these private data abuses will be investigated and punished accordingly.