A recent report by Hindenberg Research accused Opera, the maker of a popular Web browser for Windows, Android, and iOS, to be involved in offering loans through four Android apps targeted towards the users residing in India, Kenya, and Nigeria. The apps named CashBean, OKash, OPay, and OPesa are loan platforms that appear to be in direct violation of Google Play Store policies, forbidding predatory loans, and deceptive descriptions.
Opera has always claimed to care about user privacy and regulations, but many news reports have shown that it uses its side projects to engage in unlawful activities. According to the report, the company’s losses in browser revenue have led it to create multiple loan apps with short payment windows. They offer loans with the interest rate of 365-876 percent, which is in violation of the new Play Store rules Google enacted last year.
The apps claim to offer a maximum annual percentage rate (APR) of 33 percent or less, but the actual rates are seen to be much higher. The exact figure rose to 438 percent in case of OPesa. Furthermore, these apps publicly claimed reasonable loan terms of 91 to 365 days, while the real-time period was found to be around 15 years. An email response from OKash said it only offered loans from 15-29 days, which is way below the limit of 60 set by Google loan terms. These conditions got worse for those who missed their payments as the rate increases to 876 percent in only one day.
Hindenburg further indicated that Opera used the loan apps to artificially fund financial growth amid lower profit margins than its main browser business. The report also said that despite dubious reporting and business practices, the company has poured millions of dollars into apps and companies operated by its CEO.
The apps were also reported to access phone contacts to harass family, friends, and others with calls and texts in hopes this would pressure customers into paying up. Users were threatened to take legal actions in case of refusal. The affectees include young people whose financial futures and even careers may be in jeopardy with credit trouble, making the situation extremely disturbing.
Both Opera and Google are yet to comment on the situation.