Online loans: Reps seek stiffer measures against undue harassment

The House of Representatives, has moved to introduce stiffer measures against online loan providers, which are in the habit of harassing supposed guarantors, who in most cases know nothing about such loans.

The House Wednesday mandated its relevant committees, including that of Banking and Currency, and of Communications to investigate the trend and report the findings back, for the House’s further legislative action

This was fallout of a motion on the “Need to Apply Stringent Measures to Curtail the Excesses of Online Loan Providers, sponsored by Hon. Akin Alabi, who recalled that the coronavirus (COVID–19) pandemic’s far–reaching impact on the global economy has been significant, with evidence across all sectors of the economy, due to which “a rising number of Nigerians have resorted to digital lenders to sort out urgent financial needs”.

He noted that the rise was further helped as access to loans from the traditional financial institutions is often a long and painstaking process, adding that “there is a growing increase in the number of digital lending service providers who have seemingly simplified the lending process, and increased access to loans remotely and quickly”.

According to the lawmaker, several lending platforms are however operating outside the principles of lawful processing of personal data as required under the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation and other relevant provisions on data protection in Nigeria”, a loophole he argued many online loan providers are exploiting.

He said due to the growing need for financial assistannce, the providers were engaging in unfair collection practices by subjecting Nigerians to situations where their contacts are besieged with unsolicited messages from the loan providers in a bid to force the borrowers to pay.

“The online loan providers have resorted to a pesky habit of shaming as a tactic to get their customers to pay and taking actions that are tantamount to privacy violation, intimidation, and harassment”, he said, adding that the recovery agents for the lending firms are mostly unprofessional and often apply unethical methods including impersonating lawyers and security officers, in a bid to recover borrowed funds from
defaulting clients.