On defamation of customers by mobile loan companies
These loan apps are not making mistakes about their slander. They recognize that their customers are paupers who cannot afford to fight legal battles against them. They know that a person who takes a N1,500 loan is living from hand to mouth, and nobody expects much of them.
SOMEBODY has to say something. Mobile loan applications must no longer be allowed the unfettered distortion of people’s hard-earned integrity. It is extremely disturbing to receive brazen messages from a random number telling you how your friend and her family are on the run. They are criminals. You should never associate with them and you should warn them to clear their loan defaults with a particular loan company “or else…” These messages are not only startling. Empirical studies reveal that more than half of the time, they are also disgusting. Someone or some company you have never met has just sent you an unsolicited, unreasonable, and unthinkable SMS about someone you have always known to be a perfect gentleman. And they want you to believe them by using aggressive words which makes it all the more disgusting. To make more matters worse, this defaulter may be someone you don’t know. You just received a threat about someone you have never met who allegedly “used you as a surety” and is now on the run. Whether you are having a bad day at work or not, you are going to instantly wonder in your mind, “has this sender lost their mind? What are they talking about?”
Ironically, this is the direct opposite of what the loan apps hope to achieve. They want sympathy, support, and a prompt from the defaulter’s contacts to pressure the defaulter to pay. But they lost the contacts’ support with their scandalous description of their friend. Moreover, the contacts were not in the know when the loan was vetted and approved. If they choose to have none of it at this point, no one can fault them. And it is entirely wrong to be involved if you don’t even know the defaulter to start with. Despite this bite of the reality sandwich,many loan companies continue to stalk the defaulter’s contacts. They will text you on your mobile and the most popular chatting app in Nigeria,
“WhatsApp.”They will text you about three times a day and you are lucky if you do not get their texts more than once every week. You become appalled and confused. You cannot even mark them as spam because they will pop up again somehow. They simultaneously threaten the defaulters with a life ban on loans, “pay now or else…” calls, and messages, among others.
Let’s leave the legal implications in the can for a minute.The system is clearly not working and the loan apps need to know that. They are verbally and psychologically abusing their defaulters. They are emotionally and unreservedly attacking the defaulter’s contacts. And they are dwindling the number of persons who will ever wish to use their services. Their strategy is bad for their business. It is terrible for their customers, and it is nauseating to their defaulter’s contacts. The shocking fact is that most of these debtors do not owe beyond the Nigerian minimum wage. The loan companies are gilding the lily over how much? We will not discuss their ridiculous interest rates today. Give or take, it is typically between N1,500 and N30,000. People who owe huge loans are not dragged this way. There are people around the country who owe banks millions of naira and will never be exposed to their friends or families. The clue here is straightforward.
These loan apps are not making mistakes about their slander. They recognize that their customers are paupers who cannot afford to fight legal battles against them. They know that a person who takes a N1,500 loan is living from hand to mouth, and nobody expects much of them. So,they resort to every means at their disposal regardless of their clients’ hard-earned integrities. According to the 2019 Nigerian Living Standard Survey, up to 40 per cent of Nigerians are living below the poverty line. And there are no questions about it. Letting these loan companies off the hook implies that you are leaving up to 40 per cent of Nigerians at their mercy. This is entirely unacceptable for a nation of Nigeria’s reputation. It is worthy to note that this practice is not a general feature of all loan firms. But the number of loan firms adopting it now attracts nationwide attention. If this loan recovery strategy was legal up till now, it is high time Nigerians experienced a turnaround. There is no reason these poor people should be dragged while you apply moderate principles on wealthy customers.
Interestingly, Article 2.2 of “the Nigerian Data Protection Regulation 2019” establishes that this is an entirely unacceptable way of using customer data. It is not surprising that the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has recently sanctioned one perpetrator of this denigrating behavior. Many more are probably in the coffers. But “probably” is not near enough. The Nigerian people must stand up for themselves. The Nigerian government must protect this helpless 40 per cent of its people from harassment. Money is what they lack, not integrity. They are not criminals on the run, and more than 28 per cent of Nigerian adults are hypertensive. If anyone must lend them money, let such firms devise a standard and acceptable system to handle defaulters. Slander is not it for us.
Written by: Hassan Adesokan
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