SECP releases whitelist of digital lending apps

The logo of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan. — Photo via Facebook/File
The logo of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan. — Photo via Facebook/File

The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) released a whitelist of digital lending applications that are licensed or under evaluation on Wednesday — a move that will help citizens avoid illegal apps.

The development comes a day after Google stopped personal loan apps on the Play Store from accessing Pakistani users’ photos and contacts.

The whitelist is available on the SECP’s website and will help the global tech giant verify apps that have been approved by the regulator before allowing them to list on the Play Store, with effect from May 31, 2023, a statement issued by the SECP said.

“The whitelist contains the names of approved apps owned by licensed Non-Banking Financial Companies, as well as the apps of licensed NBFCs which were operating as on December 27, 2022 and have applied for approval.”

According to the list, the following apps have either been approved or are under evaluation: SmartQarza, UdharPaisa, Zaroorat Cash and Barwaqt.

The regulator noted that Circular 15 mandates that apps comply with digital lending standards, including adequate cybersecurity measures and controls to ensure confidentiality is maintained and access to users’ contacts and photo galleries is restricted.

“SECP encourages all NBFCs engaged in digital lending activities to comply with the updated requirements specified in Circular 15 and submit requisite documentation for app approval at the earliest to avoid any inconvenience.

“Potential borrowers are also encouraged to verify the app status from SECP’s Whitelist before any exposure with any digital lending app,” the statement added.

There are several phone apps on the Google Play Store that claim to offer users loans in easy instalments with low-interest rates. However, they ask for access to users’ data, including their contacts and phone galleries. Many of these apps are scams. 

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