The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has sanctioned an online lending platform, Soko Lending Company Limited, with a fine of N10m for alleged privacy invasion.

The agency disclosed this in a statement issued by its spokesperson and titled: ‘NITDA sanctions Soko Loan for privacy invasion’.

The statement said, “This action was taken after receiving a series of complaints against the company for unauthorised disclosures, failure to protect customers’ personal data and defamation of character as well as carrying out the necessary due diligence as enshrined in the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation.”

It added, “One of such complaints filed by Bloomgate Solicitors on behalf of its client, the data subject, was received on Monday, 11th November 2019. NITDA, as part of its due diligence process commenced investigation over the alleged infractions of the provisions of the NDPR.

“According to one of the complainants, when he failed to meet up with his repayment obligations due to insufficient credit in his account on the date the direct debit was to take effect, the company unilaterally sent privacy-invading messages to the complainant’s contacts.

“Investigation revealed that complainant’s contacts who were neither parties to the loan transaction nor consented to the processing of their data have confirmed the receipt of such messages.

“The agency made strident efforts to get Soko Loan to change the unethical practise but to no avail. After the agency’s investigation team secured a lien order on one of the company’s accounts by which it could come up with privacy-enhancing solutions for its business model, Soko Loan decided to rebrand and direct its customers to pay into its other business accounts.

“The agency’s investigation further revealed that the company embeds trackers that share data with third parties inside its mobile application without providing users information about it or using the appropriate lawful basis.”

NITDA said it found Soko Loan to be in violation of the use of the non-conforming privacy notice, contrary to Article 2.5 and 3.1(7) of the NDPR.

For the alleged breaches privacy data, NITDA imposed a monetary sanction of N10m on Soko Loan.

It also directed that no further privacy invading messages be sent to any Nigerian until the company and its entities showed full compliance with the NDPR.

SaharaReporters recalls that some Nigerians had lamented the invasion of their privacy by online lending companies including Soko Loan. 

A resident of Delta State recently alleged that some online loan companies allegedly sent death messages to his phone and threatened to declare him wanted as a fraudster if he failed to repay them.

The victim, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the threats he had received, said the loan companies also allegedly contacted his family members telling them he was a swindler, who had escaped with their money.

The man, a salary earner in Delta State, told SaharaReporters that he borrowed money from the virtual financial institutions when his salary was delayed.

He said, “What actually happened was that my bank account was hacked. You know all these online loans apps, you have to submit your details and Bank Verification Number (BVN) to them. I just saw that money disappeared from my account and confronted them about what happened.

“They didn’t respond. I also informed my bank. It happened last month, July. I couldn’t pay them. I defaulted. I sent them a mail. I told them about my conditions, but they just didn’t act or care. They started sending messages to all my contacts that I scammed them. I was shocked when my mother called me from the village. Then, I was just seeing different debit alerts coming in from them.”   

He disclosed to SaharaReporters that the companies started deducting his money without him seeing debit alerts until he consulted his bank officials who traced them.

“I'm to pay Fast Money N21,000 plus while Sokoloan is N19,000. The amount had to increase due to my inability to pay back as and when due. They added penalty charges, yet they still disgraced me for the money I will still pay,” he added.

“Upon that, they were threatening me that I will die a sorrowful death. They said they would declare me wanted by the police and all sorts of defamatory messages. Even, they go spiritual by sending curses and abuses in the names of gods and jazz,” he lamented.

“These are some of the messages I received from them, ‘If We Fail To Get Our Money Back Now Via App/Transfer, Ajaguwa Will Continue To Curse You, Your Family And Contacts Via Calling, Sms And Whatsapp Every Now...

"In Order To Take Your Mess Further And Make Your Life More Miserable, We Will Be Going Deeper Using Yagungun To Call And Curse Your Family And Contacts By 12noon...

“Below Is You And Your Family (Dogs) Lunch. 

“Wherever You May Be Now You And Your Family Shall Die A Miserable/Sorrowful Death With Your Hands And Legs Broken...Laisaisa Iku Ebaiba...”

Another victim also told SaharaReporters that the companies were established to help Nigerians access loans easily considering the procedures involved in getting loans at commercial banks.

He, however, lamented the high rate of professionalism with which they operate.

According to him, the companies promise to give quick loans but attach seemingly high-interest rates.

He said despite the high-interest rate, the customers are hardly given time to pay back the loans and once the repayment period elapses, libellous messages are sent to the family and friends of the loanee.

He listed the companies to include: 9Credit, Kashkash, Gocash, Imoney, Lcredit, Xcredits and Fastmo among others.

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