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Michael’s Story of Digital Lending Apps Harassment and the Need for Stronger Regulations

Michael (a pseudonym) borrowed Sh25,000 from Whitepath Ltd, an online lending app, to pay his sibling’s school fees and provide upkeep money for his parents. Michael had a good credit history with the app and was due to repay the loan on March 27, 2023.

However, two days before the deadline, Whitepath’s employees began calling him from as early as 7:30 a.m. until 8:30 p.m. and threatening to share his personal information with his family and friends if he didn’t pay.

The harassment intensified on March 27 when the agents pretended to be Michael and sent messages to his contacts claiming he intended to commit suicide if he didn’t receive help to pay off his loan.

The agents listed his full name, ID number, and attached his photographs to the messages. They also threatened to harm him if he did not pay. Michael’s father was particularly affected by the messages, which drove Michael into depression.

Despite contacting Whitepath to complain about the harassment, the company did not resolve the issue. Some of Michael’s contacts were also angry with him for listing them as a referee, which resulted in them receiving calls from Whitepath’s agents.

Michael had only listed two people as his referees, his friend, and his sister, but had granted the app permission to access his contacts.

When contacted, Whitepath did not provide any information about Michael’s case. However, it is worth noting that in March 2022, the Central Bank of Kenya banned digital credit providers, their officers, or agents from using obscene or profane language during debt collection.

Michael plans to lodge a complaint with the police station, the Central Bank of Kenya, the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, and any other relevant institution to prevent others from experiencing what he has gone through. He is still trying to repay the loan, which has accumulated hefty fines that have seen it shoot up to Sh45,000, attracting fines of almost Sh4,000 daily.

During the investigation, numerous complaints were received from other consumers of Whitepath, including a petition to ban the app over severe harassment and debt shaming by its employees, initiated by Ms. Caroline Kahiu.

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