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FCCPC, CBN, NCC, others welcome Google’s policy barring digital lenders’ access to user data

*Nigeria’s Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission describes the global tech giant’s move as an important regulatory approach to improve and strengthen digital lending ecosystems in the West African country

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) says the Commission and other collaborators on the Joint Regulatory & Enforcement Taskforce, (CBN, ICPC, NITDA, EFCC, NCC, NDPB) (“JRTF”) welcome Google’s “broad and responsible policy” of barring digital lending applications that are equipped to access personal information including consumers’ contacts, photos, videos, precise location data and call logs from its Play Store (platform of download by consumers).

Mr. Babatunde Irukera, Executive Vice-Chairman/ Chief Executive Officer (EVC/CEO), in a statement issued Wednesday, April 12, 2023, said in line with Sections 17(b), (e), (g), (l), (m), (p), (t), (x), (y) of the FCCPA 2018, this step is consistent with the Commission’s position and resolve that such access is intrusive, and violates consumer privacy on multiple levels.

Irukera noted these include especially third-party privacy rights of persons, who provided their personal information or data to customers or borrowers of digital lenders, but have no relationship or privity to the transaction(s) between such customers and the digital lenders.

The statement said: “This is an important step in streamlining and sanitising the digital lending space.

“It is an outcome of extended and intense investigation, enforcement, intervention, collaboration and engagement; and another example of how the right approach to regulation can improve and strengthen ecosystems in the country.”

According to Irukera, the Commission and partners on the JRTF recognise the value digital lending can, and does provide in society, as well as respect lenders’ desire, indeed prerogative to recover; and borrowers’ obligations to pay back loans.

However, the FCCPC “insists that this important component of commerce and consumer service is not incompatible, or mutually exclusive with legal, ethical and otherwise acceptable methods of recovery or securing compliance with obligations.”

The Commission further affirmed the Google’s “progressive decision” underscores this position of the market regulatory Commission.

It further noted that the Limited Interim Regulatory/Registration Framework and Guidelines for Digital Lending (LIRRFGDL) published and enforced by the Commission preceded Google’s policy, and “this institutionalisation by Google affirms legitimacy and further reduces the possibility or occurrence of abusive conduct by any lender.”

The FCCPC stated: “This is appropriate respite for consumers who have been subjected to abusive, intrusive, defamatory and other forms of unacceptable borrowing or recovery practices, and an assurance that such practices are less likely to occur going forward, and where they do, the regulatory process will address the illegal conduct.”

The Commission is proud to have initiated and led this effort and set a pace that is becoming a globally applicable standard, said Irukera.

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