On Thursday (July 20, 2023), the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission announced that it is delisting two digital money lenders (DMLs) for unethical practices such as duplicity and the use of Android Package Kits (APKs) file formats.
“The illegal DMLs provide links to consumers to visit unregistered websites using Android devices,” Babatunde Irukera, CEO of FCCPC said in a statement seen by Bendada.com. “In the course of the Commission's continuing investigations and tracking of these illegally operating DMLs, [we] have discovered duplicity by at least two otherwise legally registered DMLs on the Commission's approval list.”
Mr Irukera further explained the duplicity is executed such that approved digital lenders use these alternate channels for prohibited conduct. In the statement, the FCCPC said it has identified Sycamore Integrated Solutions Limited and Orange Loan & Purple Credit Limited as the erring companies and has since announced that they are permanently delisted as approved digital lenders in the country.
In addition, FCCPC said that it has asked Google Playstore to prohibit any product associated with the aforementioned companies which occupy numbers one and 65 on the recent list of approved companies and digital money lending apps in Nigeria that was released by the commission last month.
However, there seems to be confusion and a lack of adequate communication. According to a spokesperson at Sycamore, “an app impersonated us and they [referring to FCCPC] did not even check to see that it was another company.”
The app which the FCCPC is referring to is called “Get Loan”, on Google Playstore, the initial description claims that it is offered by Sycamore Integrated Solutions Limited and was released in July 2022.
However, Sycamore's spokesperson said that the app is not affiliated with them.
In the reviews section of “Get Loan” on Google Playstore, you will find users like Sonia Okon lamenting:
“This app is a total fraud, their agent called to tell me that I have been granted a loan of 100-200k, they convince me to download the app, and when I did, they end up approving a loan of 10k which I was to get only 6200 to repay 11k. Even when I declined the loan the agent said she was going to increase the amount and told me to send a screenshot but when I did, I ended up noticing she approved the loan and it wasn't increased either, then she blocked me.... scammerssss.”
Unlike “Get Loan”, Sycamore's current app on Playstore was released in March 2023 and was last updated on July 17, 2023, as of the time of this report.
Since its launch, Sycamore has disbursed loans worth over $15 million to over 45,000 Nigerian MSMEs operating within Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Ibadan and Abeokuta. The company operates with state lending licences across these territories.
A closer look at the “Get Loan” app on Google Playstore shows that it is owned by Edmond Solutions with its contact address as No.6 Off Galadima Kyari Drive, Mai Deribi Building Maiduguri, Borno state.
When Bendada.com did a quick search on Google, we found this exact address on a website called Fakexy—“Nigeria fake address generator in Borno”. The location is also not available on Google Maps, we also asked two Maiduguri residents if they have heard of the location before but the answer was; “No”.
Meanwhile, a search of Edmond Solutions on the Corporate Affairs Commissions register shows “The Edmond Solution Company” with a Lagos-based address.
“Since being made aware of this situation, we have been in active cooperation with the appropriate authorities, including the FCCPC, to identify and address the imposter responsible for these deceptive practices,” the fintech said in a statement shared with Bendada.com. “As a regulated money lender, we comply with all necessary legal requirements, including those set forth by the FCCPC, to ensure the highest standards of customer protection and data security. We are even more committed to maintaining an environment of transparency and accountability in all our operations.”
Sycamore says it has taken immediate actions to ensure the safety of the customers, this includes; enhanced customer support, secure verification processes collaborating with authorities and public awareness campaign.
Google deletes “Get Loan”
Following the FCCPC clampdown and several media reports, Google has deleted “Get Loan”—Sycamore's impersonator—from Playstore. Recall that earlier this year, Google said that will prevent apps that offer loans to individuals from gaining access to their photos, videos, and contacts in a bid to address predatory behaviour from some lenders.
In line with the Limited Interim Regulatory/Registration Framework and Guidelines for Digital Lending, 2022 by FCCPC, DMLs in Nigeria that want to upload their app on Playstore must present their letter of approval from the commission.
Editor's Note: This article was updated to reflect the deletion of “Get Loan” from Google Playstore.