ISLAMABAD: Following directions given by Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication (MoITT) Syed Aminul Haque, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has blocked 43 digital lending apps operating without a proper licence.
The apps were criticized for their predatory lending tactics after a man committed suicide for failing to repay debt which had swelled to Rs800,000. In the statement, the ministry said directions were issued to PTA Chairman retired Maj Gen Hafeezur Rehman to act against illegal loan apps.
Haque said ‘strict action’ had been taken against those apps which were ‘blackmailing the masses’. The minister emphasised the importance of launching an awareness campaign to prevent people from falling victim to such fraudulent activities.
The statement further said that individuals should report complaints to relevant authorities — including the PTA, FIA Cybercrime, and local police — to take appropriate action against these illegal loan apps.
As per MoITT, the IT minister also made contact with the FIA with directions to take action against such elements instead of waiting for complaints.
The subject of digital lending apps falls under the jurisdiction of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) which registers them, whereas blocking them was the purview of the State Bank and PTA.
“The SECP has been able to block 86 illegal apps in a year with the help of Google as they are downloaded from the PlayStore,” a senior SECP official said, adding that these apps restart their business with a new name soon after being banished.
These apps also carry out extensive advertising on social media and digital platforms, allowing them to lure more unsuspecting customers.
The FIA is investigating all legal and illegal loan apps in the wake of Mahmood Masood’s death. A senior FIA official told media that deceased had not only taken loans from lending apps but also from relatives and friends.
Meanwhile, FIA, during its crackdown across country against illegal loaning companies, has registered 74 cases for enquiries on the complaints lodged by the effectees and registered three FIRs against the individuals and companies.
The FIA arrested 17 suspects running illegal online loan schemes from various cities and blocked 30 accounts.
FIA Director General Mohsin Hassan Butt directed all field units of the cyber crime wing to take strict action against companies and individuals offering loans through unregistered and illegal mobile applications.