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21 Jan 2022

Kunle Sanni, Premium Times (Nigeria)

Nigeria: Digital loan service providers accused of threatening & harassing defaulting customers, in breach of privacy laws

‘INVESTIGATION: How digital loan providers breach data privacy, violate rights of Nigerians’ 10 January 2022

In July, Piye Garuba needed N10,000 for an important task. So when he saw 9Credit, an online platform, offering short-term loans, he grabbed the offer. The 31-year-old Abuja-based lawyer was elated when the approval of his loan request arrived shortly after filling, on the app, the Know Your Customer (KYC) form with necessary details such as his Bank Verification Number (BVN). Little did Mr Piye know that it was the beginning of a relationship that would turn sour. After repaying the initial N10,000 with an additional 20 per cent, being the interest for seven days, Mr Garba turned to 9credit for another loan. He repeated the cycle until the eleventh time when he defaulted. “When I defaulted, that was sometimes at the end of August, I began to receive multiple text messages from different sources saying they are Recovery Agents from 9Credit. The agents kept sending threatening messages to all my contact lists including my wife, colleagues, mother-in-law and uncles,” said Mr Garba.

…Mr Garba later petitioned the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) about the conduct of 9Credit, alleging cyber-bullying and harassment. In the petition seen by PREMIUM TIMES, dated September 17, the lawyer demanded the sum of N50 million from 9credit for the “damages, defamatory, derogatory and malicious” messages sent to him. He said the actions of 9credit ‘’Is a disrespect towards the laws guiding its operations in Nigeria, and as such have caused great injury to the character and person.’’ Despite his petition to NITDA, Mr Garuba said the action did not stop the continuous harassment by 9credit.

…When contacted through separate phone calls on November 29, two customer care agents of Lcredit, who identified themselves simply as Alabi and Gift, confirmed that Ms Adeolu has made full payment of her loan of N18,700. They also confirmed the details of the company’s service charge. But they neither denied nor admitted the threatening messages sent to her contact list which were not part of the emergency numbers she listed as guarantors. “I don’t know about the harassment claims, because I am speaking to you from the customer care service, not from the recovery agents department. I do not know what principles guide that department. Although we are under the same company; we are from different departments and there is no synergy between us. It is not a collective job,” Mr Alabi said. While reacting to the excesses of some of their recovery agents, he explained that Lcredit only reaches out to a few contacts of a customer who proved adamant not to repay a loan. For her part, Ms Gift said Lcredit only reaches out to customers’ contacts when they have either changed their phone number or refused to pick phone calls put to them for repayment of their loans. “We only call the contacts of our customers to help us notify them (customers) to pay up their debts,” Ms Gift said.