Barely 48 hour after descending on the operations and assets of illegal financial loan management outfits, the Federal Government, through the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), has gone a step further to probe the activities of renowned search engine, Google, for aiding the loan sharks by enabling apps for loan requests.
FCCPC had during the week closed 30 bank accounts belonging to some of the outfits, who are in the habit of going through their ‘customers’ personal details and exposing same to the public in the event of payment default.
The Commission said Google International would beheld accountable for allowing the operators to exploit Nigerians illegally via the creation of non-traceable illegal online loan platforms, which is an infringement on Nigerian consumers’ rights.
Also, the FCCPC explained that it was currently investigating the activities of major oil marketers over the hike in aviation fuel or JET A1 and Automotive Gas Oil (AGO), otherwise known as diesel.
Disclosing these at a media briefing in Lagos yesterday, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Commission, Mr Babatunde Irukera, said Google acted irresponsibly by allowing illegal loan sharks in Nigeria to create apps that violated the rights of Nigerians to their privacy protection, which constitutes national risks to the country as a whole.
Irukera said that Google may not be welcome to do business in Nigeria again for creating an app that poses high risk to the country’s national interest and existence.
He pointed out that the app allowed the operators to freely venture into many Nigerians private lives. According to him, the 30 illegal loan companies operating in Nigeria freely have access to driver’s license, National Identification Number, voter’s cards and other sensitive information on the contact lists of those who borrowed monies from them.
The FCCPC boss explained that the Commission had been struggling to communicate with Google operators to no avail. Irukera said: “We are pulling down apps from Google play store. Even we as a regulator, we are running into trouble with Google.
I got a letter on Wednesday from someone who is a senior legal officer with Google in Africa and Middle East. “And in that letter, there is absolute no way to contact Google. I find that extremely reprehensive and shameful of a company in the size and magnitude as Google.
“As a regulator, we are struggling to find Google and for Google to be able to enforce order of a regulator is problematic in your country, where Google is available and doing business, is the height of irresponsibility by a company with a huge brand like Google.
“So I intend to hold Google responsible for that letter they have written and their own successive barriers to be engaged for enforcement.
I am going to hold Google responsible for that. “But it’s easier to hold Google responsible because we know where to go if I need to work with the law enforcement in California, United States, because we’ve got counterparts there.
“And we will use our counterparts there and say Google, you are not welcome in this country if we can’t find you and the regulator cannot engage you when your platform is being used to exploit people. No, you are not welcome? “I don’t care if Google has an offices in Abuja and Lagos or not, but you must tell me where to find you when I have a problem.
You provide a service, you allow people to put apps on the platform, and discover that app is the problem, and we are having problem finding you.