A telephone helpline (044-6633 4346) for women and self-help groups on micro-financing will be launched by consumers rights group Consumer Association of India on Friday, coinciding with World Consumer Rights Day.

People who have taken loans from micro-finance institutions or are hoping to get loans from such institutions can contact the helpline. Swathy Perla, the Association’s director for financial services, said several self-help groups and, particularly, women running small businesses were often unaware of the regulations governing micro-finance.

“The government has stipulated that the maximum rate of interest cannot go beyond 24 per cent,” she said. “But there have been instances where some micro-financing institutions have demanded as high as 60 per cent interest. The helpline is to prevent the Andhra Pradesh-like fiasco from two years ago from repeating itself.” (The neighbouring State had a spate of farmer suicides over repayment of loans.)

Closer home, some SHGs have reported field-level officers of non-governmental organisations demanding a “commission” out of the sanctioned loan. The helpline will help the women and the groups ensure that such anomalies are not allowed.