KY Voices for Springing the Debt Trap

15 12 2010

Ky. voices: Spring payday loan debt trap
Lexington Herald-Leader
December 15, 2010

 
By Anne Marie Regan and Lisa Gabbard

Kentucky’s new payday lending database is proving that too many consumers are caught in an endless cycle of debt and that a 36 percent rate cap is long overdue. The Herald-Leader’s recent editorial got it right that payday loans create “a perpetual debt machine that grabs borrowers and sucks them in.”

What’s new: Information from the database supports the push for a common sense 36 percent cap. Lawmakers told consumers and their advocates, in 2009 and again in 2010, to “wait and see how the database works.” All the while, payday lenders have continued making loans at up to 400 percent annual interest to consumers desperate for cash to make ends meet.

Kentucky’s database went live in April and has been quietly gathering hard data and adding up the millions of dollars borrowed and fees paid at the 600-plus payday lending storefronts across the state. What the new database confirms is a disturbing and persistent debt trap for consumers that parallels patterns of long-term borrowing in other states. These patterns show that repeat borrowing is the rule, rather than the exception for the payday industry.

The average borrower in Kentucky has taken out 8.6 transactions since January, and 83 percent of payday loan revenues have been generated by borrowers with five or more transactions. Borrowers typically cannot repay in 14 days and end up taking out loan after loan. As a result, the typical borrower will pay $439.50 in fees alone on the average loan amount of $310. The database also confirms how much Kentucky consumers are paying in fees (more than $80 million this year so far), with much of it leaving our local economies and going to out-of- state companies.

While the database is a useful tool for regulators and a first step in enforcing existing state law, it does nothing to help consumers escape the debt trap or lower the 400 percent interest rates. Other states have taken action to do this, and Kentucky should, too. Seventeen other states (most recently Montana) have capped interest at around 36 percent or never legalized payday lending. In 2006, the Department of Defense pushed Congress to pass a law limiting annual interest on payday loans made to military families to 36 percent.

One recent bright spot in this long debate is the Attorney General’s Consumer Advisory Council. It held a series of public hearings this fall and gathered comment on payday loans. What it heard from consumers and their advocates was clear: Waiting for a 36 percent cap on payday loans is costing consumers, their families, local economies and Kentucky too much.

After deliberating, the Council has recommended that the 2011 General Assembly impose a 36 percent interest rate cap on payday lending.

Even with Kentucky’s new database, state law is not protecting consumers from exploitative, high-interest (400 percent APR) loans and the cycle of debt. Now that the database is capturing data about the harmful effects of payday loans, it’s up to the legislature to use this information to spring consumers from this debt trap. The only proven solution is to cap these loans at 36 percent.

Anne Marie Regan and Lisa Gabbard are co-chairs of the Kentucky Coalition for Responsible Lending.

Click here to read the Consumers’ Advisory Council’s Letter to House and Senate Leadership recommending a 36% APR to help consumers.CAC Letter_Sen_Williams_Rep_Stumbo_12-09-10

See the Herald-Leader online version: http://www.kentucky.com/2010/12/15/1567162/ky-voices-spring-payday-loan-debt.html#more#ixzz18BzzwdqX

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State’s Consumers’ Avisory Council Votes to Approve 36% Payday Lending Cap

12 12 2010

Consumers’ Advisory Council Calls on Lawmakers for 36% Cap on Payday Loans

Capping interest rates at 36% in best interest of Kentucky.

The Consumers’ Advisory Council (CAC) voted Dec. 9th to officially recommend legislation capping interest rates on payday loans at 36% APR. In a letter to House and Senate leaders, the Council concluded that a rate cap is “in the best interest of Kentucky.” The Council’s recommendations are expected to boost consumer groups’ and lawmakers’ continued push for a 36% cap in the 2011 General Assembly.

“We applaud the Council’s work and for recognizing the harm of a loan product that carries 400% interest rates – and the urgent need to protect consumers,” said CLOUT Board Member, Jimmy Mills.  “There is broad statewide support for lowering abusive 400% rates in favor of a common sense 36% cap for payday loans, just like Congress did for the military and 17 other states have done,” said Anne Marie Regan, senior staff attorney for Kentucky Equal Justice Center and co-chair of the Kentucky Coalition for Responsible Lending (KCRL).

At a series of three public hearings called for by CLOUT (Citizens of Louisville Organized and United Together) in Newport, Lexington, and Louisville, Council members heard personal accounts of consumers being caught in payday lending’s cycle of debt.  Consumer advocates, using data from the state’s new payday loan database, testified that both the numbers and stories show that the typical payday loan results in long term debt, not a quick financial fix.

“Data from the state’s database shows that the average borrower in Kentucky has already taken out 8.6 loans this year, translating into more than $80 million in fees alone” said Pendleton County resident Brigitte Blom Ramsey, Director of Special Projects at Kentucky Youth Advocates.  “These fees represent a loss of valuable financial resources to Kentucky families and communities, with the vast majority of the money going to out of state payday lenders.” 

The new Kentucky data also showed that at least 83% of payday revenue has been generated by borrowers with five or more transactions this year. In contrast, just 2% of payday revenue is generated by customers who only used one loan.

The Council’s letter also noted additional measures, such as, a cooling off period between loans, extended payment plans, and enhanced consumer disclosure. However, at the same time the Council recognized other states’ experience showing these same measures “appear to be ineffective” to address consumers’ needs once caught in the cycle of debt created by payday loan’s high interest rates.

In other states where 400% interest payday loans are is still allowed, repayment plans and cooling off periods fail to lower the costs of loans or change patterns of repeat borrowing.

KCRL with some 65 other organizations and supporting legislators will seek a 36 percent cap in the 2011 General Assembly. 

 “Payday loans are not an answer to the financial emergencies that are hitting Kentucky families. When families get sucked into the debt trap and are forced to pay excessive fees every two weeks it directly affects their ability to meet their monthly obligations such as rent or mortgage payments, utilities, and essential needs of their family,” said Penny Young, Executive Director of the Homeless and Housing Coalition. “These loans are predatory and take advantage of our most vulnerable populations. It’s time for our legislators to take action and follow the consumer advisory council’s recommendation for a 36% cap.”