What just happened? While the Opera browser has a number of features that could attract people away from Chrome, Google’s product completely dominates the market. According to a new report, Opera has expanded into loan apps to help bring in extra revenue, but their extortionate interest rates and short repayment times put them in violation of Google’s Play Store policies.
The report from Hindenburg Research claims that Opera runs four Android apps—CashBean, OKash, OPay, and OPesa—that are aimed at the “developing” markets of India, Kenya, and Nigeria.
Update: Opera has refuted Hindenburg claims in their Investor Relations site, saying the report contains "numerous errors, unsubstantiated statements, and misleading conclusions."
While Opera describes the loans’ interest rates as being between 12 percent and 33 percent maximum per year, the actual rate is 365 to 438 percent. Those figures are even worse if repayments are late by just one day, rising to 876 percent.
Additionally, the loans are offered over 91 to 365 days, but the actual lengths range from just seven days (for OPay) to a maximum of 29 days for OKash—all significantly lower than the 60-day minimum Google has in place for apps on its store.
As unscrupulous as the apps seem, the Play Store reviews make them sound even worse. Some of the apps scraped phone numbers from borrowers’ phones, texting or calling them when payments were late in an attempt to get customers to pay—a practice that stopped last year as it’s illegal. Some of the messages threatened legal action or putting a borrower on a credit blacklist.
One of the apps has already been removed from the Play Store, and more could follow, which would have a huge effect on the company’s bottom line. Since the report’s release, Opera’s stock price has dropped from $9 to a low of $6.88.
Update: Opera has responded to the report on its investor website, claiming it contains "numerous errors, unsubstantiated statements, and misleading conclusions and interpretations."