New Payday Loan Rules Could Leave Millions “At Risk” in Debt Traps

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the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Tuesday issued a final payday loan rule, repealing Obama-era provisions that would have required lenders to ensure borrowers could repay their loans before issuing cash advances.

To ensure that borrowers do not fall into so-called debt traps, the CFPB released new multi-part payday loan regulations in 2017 which, among other things, required payday lenders to verify that borrowers could afford to pay off their loans on time by verifying information such as income, rent, and even student loan payments.

But the Trump administration blocked the entry into force of those rules and called for a review. On Tuesday, the CFPB – under new leadership – issued a finalized rule that does not require lenders to verify that borrowers can afford to pay.

This “ensures that consumers have access to credit and competition in states that have decided to allow their residents to use these products, subject to the limitations of state law,” the agency said in a press release. In addition, CFPB staff found that there was “insufficient legal and evidentiary basis” to require lenders to verify consumers’ ability to repay loans.

The CFPB has maintained restrictions in place that prohibit payday lenders from repeatedly attempting to withdraw payments directly from a person’s bank account. Some payday lenders attempt to get their money back by taking what is owed to them directly from borrowers’ checking accounts, which borrowers grant access to as a condition of the loan. But unexpected lender withdrawals can lead to costly overdraft fees and damage credit scores.

Consumer advocates say the CFPB’s case to overturn the 2017 rule does not stand up to scrutiny and have condemned the agency’s decision to remove underwriting mandates. “By eliminating repayment capacity protections, CFPB commits a serious mistake that exposes the 12 million Americans who use payday loans each year to unaffordable payments at annual interest rates of almost 400% on average “, declares Alex horowitz, Senior Research Fellow, Pew Charitable Trusts Consumer Credit Project.

“Last October, we learned that in return for contributions to the Trump campaign, payday lenders were boasting of power. ‘pick up the phone and … get the president’s attention’ to push back regulation, ”Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said in a statement Tuesday. “Today the CFPB gave payday lenders exactly what they paid for by gutting a rule that would have protected American families from the predatory loans that trap them. in debt cycles. ”

Why payday loans can be problematic

Tuesday’s CFPB final rule comes at a time when Americans are increasingly seeking credit. One in three Americans lost income due to coronavirus pandemic, according to Financial Health Network’s Pulse on Financial Health in the United States 2020, a survey of more than 2,000 American adults between April 20 and May 7, 2020.

Among Americans who report losing income, 3% of survey respondents said they had to borrow money using a payday loan, deposit advance, or pawnshop.

Payday loans can be easy to obtain, but difficult to repay. In the 32 states that allow payday loans, borrowers can usually take out one of these loans by going to a lender and simply providing valid ID, proof of income, and a bank account. Unlike a mortgage or car loan, no physical collateral is usually required.

Most lenders who offer payday loans require borrowers to pay a “finance charge” (service charge and interest) to secure the loan, with the balance due two weeks later, usually on your next payday. Nationally, the average APR on a payday loan is around 400%. It is compared to personal loan rates that vary from 10% to 28% on average, depending on your credit. Or credit cards, which charged an average interest rate of around 15% interest in February, according to the Federal Reserve of Saint-Louis.

Lenders say the high rates are necessary because payday loans are risky to finance. And opponents of the Obama-era payday loan rule argue that the ability-to-pay provisions were too onerous and onerous. “The repayment capacity provisions were simply unenforceable and imposed burdens on consumers and lenders in the form of unreasonable levels of documentation not even required of mortgage lenders,” D. Lynn DeVault, president of Community Financial said Tuesday. Services Association of America. . The complex and costly regulation “would have effectively bankrupted lenders rather than protecting consumers,” she added.

However, borrowers often cannot repay these high cost loans right away, so they are dragged into a cycle of borrowing and accumulating finance charges. The research carried out by the The Office of Consumer Financial Protection during the Obama administration found that nearly one in four payday loans are borrowed nine or more times. In addition, borrowers take about five months to repay loans and cost them an average of $ 520 in finance charges, Pew Reports. This is in addition to the original loan amount.

The Payday Loan Landscape

The rules of the Obama era were already starting to work, says Horowitz: “Lenders were starting to make changes even before [the 2017 rules] officially took effect, more secure credit was already starting to flow, and harmful practices were starting to fade away. Today’s action puts all of that at risk. “

Currently, 12 states – Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and West Virginia – ban these types of loans entirely. Of those that allow payday loans, 16 states and the District of Columbia have provisions capping interest rates at 36%, while other states have placed other restrictions on payday loans. Currently, 32 states allow small dollar loans without major restrictions, according to the CFPB.

More and more states are trying to add restrictions. Last month, The Nebraskas for Responsible Lending coalition said they had collected enough signed petitions to push for a move that would cap the annual interest rate on payday loans at 36% in the state’s November ballot.

In November, federal lawmakers introduced legislation through the Fair Credit Act for Veterans and Consumers that would cap interest rates at 36% for all consumers nationwide. Biparty legislation – which is the latest attempt to curb payday lending at the federal level – was built from the framework of the Military Loans Act, 2006, which caps loans at 36% for active-duty members. But despite Democratic and Republican co-sponsors, the bill remains at a standstill.

“With the CFPB abandoning its role in protecting families, Congress must act now to extend a 36% national tariff cap to all families – which is widely supported by Americans across the ideological spectrum,” said Lauren Saunders , associate director of the National Consumer Center for Law.

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