Customers borrowing from unregistered digital lending apps should approach the local police in case of any issue, Reserve Bank Governor Shaktikanta Das said on Wednesday, making it clear that the central bank will only act against entities registered with it.
In remarks that came in the wake of a spate of alleged suicides abetted by harassment by agents or officials of lending apps, Das said most of the digital lending apps are not registered with the central bank and operate by themselves.
Das said whenever it gets a complaint from any customer, the central bank directs customers of such unregistered apps to approach the local police, which will conduct an investigation and take necessary action on the issue.
The RBI website has a list of apps that are registered with it on the website, the governor said, adding that the police in many states have acted against the wrongdoers as per the provisions of the law.
It can be noted that a spate of alleged suicides in the recent past have been attributed to harassment by loan recovery agents working for or on behalf of digital lending apps.
At the time of borrowing, a borrower consents to share personal information like the contact book of the telephone, which leads to a situation where the borrower is defamed before a person known to her or him, leading to extreme steps.
"It's my humble request to all those using such apps to first check if the app is RBI registered or not. If the app is RBI registered, the central bank will act immediately in case of any misdoing, I assure you," Das said in the customary post-policy press interaction.
This is not the first time that issues against such apps have come to the fore. A few years ago, a series of suicides and reports of harassment led the central bank to initiate a study on digital lending platforms.
Das said the RBI has received the report and comments based on it as well, and presently, the report is at an "advanced stage" of examination. After the examination, the central bank will be issuing guidelines or directions on the matter.
The governor declined to elaborate on the exact issues when asked if the central bank's cancellation of licenses for five non-bank lenders recently had been connected to tie-ups with digital apps and indulgence in bad practices.
Acknowledging that customers are also getting communication in the form of SMSes or calls in the name of banks, Das requested borrowers to not share personal details like one time passwords or CVV numbers with any such agents who can misuse the same for fraudulent activities.
If a customer wants, she or he can check with their bank branch to ascertain the veracity before proceeding ahead, he added.