The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) has ordered digital money lenders that were subject of its regulatory intervention on March 11 to cease operating.
The FCCPC gave the directive in a statement signed by Mr Babatunde Irukera, Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of FCCPC on Monday.
It also said it had begun “advanced investigation” of such digital money lenders.
The directive was based on the inter-agency Joint Regulatory and Enforcement Task Force (RETF) on right violations in respect to digital money lenders.
The task force includes FCCPC, National Information Technology Development Agency, EFCC, CBN and Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission.
Irukera said, “In furtherance, and pursuant to an Order of the Federal High Court procured by, and granted to the FCCPC, the JRETF executed a search and seizure Order on certain digital money lenders.
“As part of the operation, the JRETF together with the Nigeria Police Force and bailiff of the Federal High Court searched locations of the money lenders, extracted valuable evidence and in some circumstances prohibited or restricted continuing operations.
“In addition to the physical operation noted above, the Commission entered and served Orders on multiple financial institutions freezing or suspending operations of certain accounts which some of the money lenders have used to conduct implicated business or transactions subject of investigation.”
The FCCPC boss said that the Commission also entered and served wide ranging orders on Google LLC (Play Store) and Apple Inc. (App Store) to enforce the withdrawal of certain applications where evidence has established inappropriate conduct or use of the application in violation of the rights of consumers.
“The Order of the Commission also prohibits acceptance and presentation of new applications for the same purpose without regulatory assessment and approval.
“The investigation is still active and ongoing. The JRETF expects further and similar action as it continues to gather additional intelligence to that effect.
“In the interim, the Commission admonishes all the businesses that were subject of regulatory intervention on Friday, March 11, 2022, to cease and desist the interest compounding and loan repayment/collection practices that are the objects of this investigation,” Irukera said.
He, however, noted that in the event that any of those businesses continued or the Commission received credible evidence of such, violators would be subjected to the full extent of the law including prosecution.
“The Orders of the Commission are without prejudice to existing borrowers repaying any legitimate loans pursuant to fair and acceptable terms and conditions; or any modifications to previous terms and conditions that are considered onerous, inconsistent with prevailing law or general principles of transparency and fairness.
“The obligation to comply with the above extends to all operatives, employees or agents of the affected businesses.
“The JRETF welcomes any useful information that may assist this investigation. The same may be provided at the Commission’s dedicated evidence gathering repository at: email@example.com.
Irukera said the Commission/JRETF would continue to provide updates to the public, and invites consumers to support the investigation.
This, he said, could be achieved by continuing to provide actionable intelligence about persons associated with the businesses or practices, their telephone numbers and any other pertinent information.
The many lenders have constituted nuisance to millions of Nigerians who are subjected to harassments daily on the phone over allegations of defaulting.