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Mike Litt,
U.S. PIRG

Report: Analysis of Payday Complaints Reveals Need for Stronger Federal Protections

CONTACT:
Mike Litt, U.S. PIRG Education Fund
Office: (202) 461-3830 Cell: (702) 427-1608
mlitt@pirg.org

Report: Analysis of Payday Complaints Reveals Need for Stronger Federal Protections 

Washington, D.C. - Consumer complaints about payday loans to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) show a critical need for strengthening the agency’s proposed rule to rein in payday loans and other high-cost lending, according to a report released today by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund.

“Our analysis of written complaints to the CFPB found significant evidence of the major problem with payday loans: borrowers can’t afford these loans and end up trapped in a cycle of debt.  Ninety-one percent (91%) of written complaints were related to unaffordability,” said Mike Litt, Consumer Advocate with the U.S. PIRG Education Fund.

Some key findings:

  • Ninety-one percent (91%) of all written explanations showed signs of unaffordability, including abusive debt collection practices, bank account closures, long-term cycles of debt, and bank penalties like overdraft fees because of collection attempts.
  • The database reveals problems with a full spectrum of predatory products and services, including storefronts and online lenders, short-term payday, long-term payday installment loans, and auto title loans.
  • More than half (51%) of the payday complaints were submitted about just 15 companies. The remainder of complaints were spread across 626 companies.
  • The top five most complained about companies in the payday categories were Enova International (doing business as CashNetUSA and NetCredit), Delbert Services, CNG Financial Corporation (doing business as Check ‘n Go), CashCall, and ACE Cash Express.
  • Consumers submitted nearly 10,000 complaints in the payday loan categories of the database in two and a half years. Over 1,600 complaints included written explanations of problem since last March when the CFPB started allowing consumers to share their stories publicly.
  • The two largest types of problems under the payday loan categories were with “communication tactics” and “fees or interest that were not expected.” These two issues made up about 18% of all complaints each.

Payday lenders offer short-term high-cost loans at interest rates averaging 391% APR in the 36 states that allow them and a short period of time to pay them back. Far too many borrowers can't afford these rates but are given the loans anyway -- which sets them up to take out multiple loans after the first one and fall into a debt trap. The lender holds an uncashed check as collateral.  Increasingly lenders are also making installment loans and loans using car titles as collateral. According to CFPB research, payday lenders make 75% of their fees from borrowers stuck in more than 10 loans a year. Fourteen states and the District of Columbia effectively ban payday loans by subjecting them to low usury ceilings.

“Payday, car-title, and installment lenders dig borrowers into a dangerous pit of debt. Their business model rests on making loans that people cannot afford to repay – except by re-borrowing again and again at loanshark-style interest rates. Many borrowers end up losing their bank accounts or their vehicles, but often only after paying more in fees and interest than the amount of the original loan,” said Gynnie Robnett, Payday Campaign Director at Americans for Financial Reform.

In June, the CFPB proposed a rule that takes an historic step by requiring, for the first time, that payday, auto title, and other high-cost installment lenders determine whether customers can afford to repay loans with enough money left over to cover normal expenses without re-borrowing. However, as currently proposed, payday lenders will be exempt from this ability-to-repay requirement for up to six loans a year per customer.

“To truly protect consumers from the debt trap, it will be important for the CFPB to close exceptions and loopholes like this one in what is otherwise a well-thought-out proposal. We encourage the public to submit comments by October 7th to the CFPB about strengthening the rule before it is finalized,” Litt said.

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U.S.PIRG Education Fund works to protect consumers and promote good government. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public, and offer meaningful opportunities for civic participation. www.USPIRGedfund.org

Download the report, “Predatory Loans & Predatory Loan Complaints: The CFPB’s Consumer Complaint Database Shows the Need to Stop Payday Debt Traps” at http://uspirgedfund.org/reports/usp/predatory-loans-predatory-loan-complaints.

Public comments can be made about the rule at https://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=CFPB-2016-0025-0001

This is the seventh report in a series from the U.S. PIRG Education Fund that analyzes complaints in the CFPB’s public Consumer Complaint Database. 

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