Opera is accused of running predatory loan apps through the Google Play Store, according to a report published by Hindenburg Research. Four Android apps namely CashBean, OKash, OPay and OPesa target users in countries like India, Kenya and Nigeria, respectively, appear to be in direct violation of Google Play policies, Predatory loan apps are in direct violation of Google Play policies. Last month, Google took steps to layout policies that effectively forbids predatory loan apps and misleading app descriptions from making its way into the Google Play Store in the first place.
The research found four Android apps on Google Play Store that Opera runs as its side projects. These apps claiming to provide users with a maximum annual percentage rate (APR) of 33 percent or less. However, in reality, the actual rates were significantly higher, up to 438 percent in OPesa’s case. What’s more, while the apps claim to provide users with loan terms between 91 days to 365 days, in the case of the OKash, the actual loan term was no longer than 29 days. Google policies define a minimum 60-day loan term.
Update: Here’s what Opera had to say about the report:
“The Company is aware of and has carefully reviewed the report published by the short seller on January 16, 2020. The Company believes that the report contains numerous errors, unsubstantiated statements, and misleading conclusions and interpretations regarding the business of and events relating to the Company. The Company has recently launched and scaled multiple new businesses and has continued to post strong financial results, and intends to continue leveraging its well-known brand and large user base of more than 350 million users for additional growth. The Company also remains committed to maintaining high standards of corporate governance and constantly evolving our products, practices and governance.”
Things only got worse when borrowers found that missing a payment deadline by only one day could raise the APR as high as 876 percent. Shockingly, these apps would even collect phone contacts to harass family and friends of borrowers with phone calls and text messages, often making legal threats. This way, those apps used to pressurize borrowers into making the payment, which could jeopardize the financial future and careers of young borrowers.
Opera was reportedly using these predatory loan apps to artificially prop up financial growth in spite of lower profit margins than its primary browser business. The research also suggested that Opera has invested millions of dollars into apps and entities owned by its CEO, which if found true could put the company in immense trouble. This would not only lead Google to delete the apps in question, but also tarnish the image and reputation of the company that has often tried to claim the moral high ground.
At the time of publication of this story, apps like CashBean, OPay and OKash and still listed on Google Play Store. Meanwhile, Google seems to have removed the app OPesa from the Play Store.
(Photo by Rilsonav / Pixabay)