Report: Feds must step into ring with payday lenders

Stephon Johnson | 6/23/2016, 1:13 p.m.
A new staff report by the House Financial Services Committee concluded that stronger federal consumer protections are needed for Americans ...
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A new staff report by the House Financial Services Committee concluded that stronger federal consumer protections are needed for Americans who’d consider payday lenders.

Titled “Skirting the Law: Five Tactics Payday Lenders Use to Evade State Consumer Protection Laws,” the report outlines how the committee thinks payday lenders get around state regulations and put consumers at risk.

Some of the examples cited in the report include Texas payday lenders posing as separate but affiliated entities that would charge additional fees and interest for referring customers to the lender. That would allow them to exceed the state’s 10 percent cap on personal loans. Lenders in Florida, California and Colorado were also included for similarly bending state rules.

“Far too many Americans are being taken advantage of by payday lenders who charge exorbitant rates and trap them in a never-ending cycle of debt,” stated Congresswoman Maxine Waters. “What this report tells us is that even in states that have attempted to curb abusive payday lending, harmful practices still exist. That’s why we need a strong and effective national standard that will protect all Americans.”

“Payday lenders have a history of exploiting even the tiniest weaknesses in state law,” said Gynnie Robnett, campaign director, Americans for Financial Reform, in a statement. “The five examples in this report are a reminder of the lessons we’ve learned over the years about the shape-shifting nature of this predatory industry. If the CFPB heeds these lessons and closes the loopholes in its proposed rules, the CFPB can help millions of Americans escape the payday debt trap.”

“For millions of cash-strapped consumers living in the United States, short-term loans can appear to be the answer to their immediate financial problems,” read an executive summary of the report, “Yet, more often than not, a payday loan solution to a short-term lack of cash ends up trapping consumers in an endless cycle of unaffordable loans. According to research conducted by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the average payday borrower in the United States is in debt for nearly 200 days, more than half a year. One in four of those borrowers also spends at least 83 percent of the year owing money to a payday lender.”

In May, Waters, a ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, praised Google for banning ads for short-term loans with high interest rates.

“I applaud Google’s integrity and courage, which comes as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is working on rules to protect consumers from abusive practices,” stated Waters. “These lenders target our most vulnerable populations, trapping them in a cycle of debt that can be impossible to get out of.

Predatory lending practices that take advantage of consumers aren’t just bad for the advertising business, but for everyone’s business.”