Under presidential decree, Indonesia is at war with online loan sharks

As Indonesia’s fintech ecosystem matures, criminals are also developing ways to do business in space. This has led to the victimization of unintentional users, and the problem is widespread. The IT ministry blocked 1,856 unlicensed fintech lending platforms in 2021 and nearly 4,900 illegal lending platforms since 2018. However, this has not slowed the proliferation of illicit lending apps that prey on Indonesians financially. vulnerable.

Online loan sharks operate by providing quick loans of small amounts, typically in the range of IDR 1-3 million ($ 70-210), with very high penalties and interest rates well above the daily rate. maximum of 0.8% of the OJK. They access all the data on the borrower’s phone and abuse it to terrorize the borrower if they don’t write off the debt. Debt collectors harass borrowers with threats of violence and humiliation, or say they will share personal photos and videos of borrowers, or even compromising images that are tampered with, with their contacts. Since 2019, OJK has received over 19,000 consumer complaints about illegal lenders.

This problem is so persistent that it has caught the attention of President Joko Widodo. On October 15, the president held a meeting with the relevant authorities – the OJK Financial Services Authority, the Ministry of Informatics and the Chief of the National Police – and ordered them to take stronger action against the companies. fintechs that pose a threat to low-income communities. .

The president’s order led to a massive investigation into the activities of online loan sharks. In the past two weeks, police have raided and arrested dozens of employees of unlicensed lenders in many cities, including Jakarta, Yogyakarta and Surabaya. For example, during a raid on a company called Ant Information Consulting last week, police found pornographic photos that had been altered so that the individuals depicted looked like people who had taken out loans. An employee who was arrested said the photos were used as a tool of intimidation. The police are still looking for the owner of the business.

Bhima Yudhistira Adhinegara, director of the Center for Economic and Legal Studies (Celios), said the arrest of employees and debt collectors of illegal lenders was not enough to stop the practice. “Data from the Ministry of Informatics showed that 78% of illegal lenders operate using servers overseas, such as in China, the United States or Singapore. I think international cooperation is necessary to eradicate illegal loans, ”he said. KrASIA.

Government and other stakeholders, including fintech companies, also need to develop ways to help consumers understand the ins and outs of online lending, as financial literacy is crucial when using of these services, Adhinegara added. “So far, public education efforts have not kept pace with illegal lenders who use SMS to market their products. The government should cooperate with telecommunications operators to provide regular and large-scale SMS warnings and education. “

In addition, the personal data protection bill must be passed as soon as possible, Adhinegara said, because many unregistered lenders illegally obtain data from potential customers.

As part of efforts to shut down online loan sharks in Indonesia, the government will also impose a moratorium on licensing fintech lenders. In this way, authorities can divert resources to eliminate illegal platforms. OJK revoked the licenses of dozens of fintech lenders this year. Based on the most recent tally that took place on October 6, there are 106 registered and licensed fintech lending platforms in the country, up from 149 platforms that were on the list in December 2020.

Adhinegara approved the government’s plan to suspend new licenses for fintech lenders. “We already have too many players at the moment so it’s hard to supervise,” he said, indicating that the supervision process requires a significant budget and many resources from the OJK. Adhinegara expects fintech lenders to merge or be acquired by larger players. “At the end of the day, we will only have maybe 20 or so platforms that survive and dominate the market,” he said.

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