Most browsers are free to download and use. They sell their browsing features and enhancements to us users and then we are the product, of course, that they can sell on to other partners. Some of the ways browsers like Opera make money is with ads, sponsored links and featuring various apps. Now Opera is in some hot water due to the fact that it seemingly violated Google’s policies when it comes to predatory or reckless lending.
Opera has always championed virtuous behaviours while browsing, so this flies directly in the face of what they have been proclaiming for years. According to Hindenburg Research, Opera is running four Android apps aimed at India, Kenya and Nigeria (CashBean, OKash, OPay and OPesa) that appear to be in direct violation of Google Play Store policies forbidding predatory loans and deceptive descriptions.
According to the report, the named apps claim to offer a maximum annual percentage rate (APR) of 33 percent (which is Google’s maximum in order to be displayed on their ad platform), but actual lending rate breach the triple digits more often than not and are even as high as 430 percent.
The terms and conditions linked to these loans made it even worse for consumers if they default on those initial expensive payments. The penalty fees linked to none payment could essentially double the cost of credit for these customers. Reportedly the apps also scrape customers’ phones for contact numbers in order to pressure payment by harassing family and friends with calls and SMS’s.
Hindenburg further claimed that not only did Opera not comply with Google policies, but artificially propped up their financial growth numbers despite lower profit margins reported for the main business. The company has poured millions into apps and other entities owned by the CEO, a further indictment of their business practices.
We haven’t seen any public statements from Opera or Google, but this could lead to some big ramifications for both.