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Predatory loansIn case you missed it over the weekend, the New York Times ran a thoroughly logical editorial that rightfully called for federal regulation to crack down on the scam artists who sell payday loans and other similar debt traps in numerous states across the country.

As the editorial rightfully notes, it’s all well and good to propose and enact laws like the “Military Lending Act,” which seeks to prevent our military personnel from getting caught up in these rip-offs, but the same logic obviously applies to other vulnerable consumers as well:

“Poor and working-class people across the country are being driven into poverty and default by deceptively packaged, usuriously priced loans. The obvious solution is a national standard for consumer lending. Both the House and Senate have bills pending that would adopt the 36 percent standard for all consumer transactions, including those involving payday loans, mortgages, car loans, credit cards, overdraft loans and so on.”

And while North Carolina has done a better job than many states in protecting its citizenry from the scammers, there’s plenty that comprehensive federal regulation which sets a ceiling on rates would do to benefit us — not the least of which is the way it could cut back on the flood of money spent by the loan industry on buying political influence and corrupting our politics.

The bottom line: What’s good for protecting our service members is good for protecting all consumers. If Congress had even a smidgen of courage, it would enact such legislation ASAP.

 

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Fort BraggThere’s word from the General Assembly that the consumer finance industry is unhappy with state law designed to help protect active members of the military from exploitation. In case you’ve forgotten, the consumer finance industry runs more than 400 storefront shops throughout North Carolina that make loans featuring high interest rates and fees. The loans are often packed with junk insurance products and customers are also routinely “flipped” from one loan to another.

The provision at issue (G.S. 53-180.1) was enacted last year as part of legislation that gave the industry the authority to significantly raise the amounts it charges for loans. While failing to protect the rest of us from these predatory lending practices, the General Assembly was shamed into including some modest protections for military service members, whose paychecks are often targeted by the industry. The provision requires lenders to make sure that they do not extend loans to lower ranking enlisted personnel without at least notifying their commanding officers. It also prevents lenders from trying to collect on loans via phone or email from service members or their spouses while the service member is deployed to a dangerous area.

Now, less than a year after the protections were enacted, it appears that at least some lenders want the law (or its enforcement) weakened. For some time, it has been rumored that industry lobbyists have been working on such an effort and recently, insiders report, an industry representative confirmed the rumor.

In addition to raising the real prospect that junior service members could be exploited before heading off to Afghanistan or some other dangerous venue, such a potential change also raises important political issues in the Senate race between Senator Kay Hagan and House Speaker Thom Tillis. Read More

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At a time of historically low interest rates, state lawmakers gave final approval last night to legislation that ramps up the cost of consumer finance loans.

Meanwhile, consumer advocates are calling on Governor McCrory — who once made his oppostion to predatory “payday” loans a major plank in a mayoral reelection campaign in Charlotte  — to veto the legislation. This was released earlier today:

AARP Calls on Governor to Reject Rate Hike for Consumer Loans, Senate Bill 489 Senate Bill 489 will increase rates and fees on consumer finance loans 

RALEIGH —  On Monday night the Senate voted to concur with the House’s amendments to Senate Bill 489.  The bill now goes to the Governor’s office for his consideration.

“We are calling on the Governor to reject Senate Bill 489,” said AARP NC Director Doug Dickerson. “This legislation is going to hurt seniors and other consumers that use these loans by increasing interest rates and adding new fees.” Read More

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3-4-13-NCPW-CARTOONTomorrow the North Carolina House Banking Committee will hear proposed legislation (already passed by the Senate) to jack up rates on already exorbitantly priced installment loans.

And in case you had any doubts as to what the proposal (and others like it) are at least partially about, check out this news story from earlier today over at Bloomberg News:

Payday Lenders Evading Rules Pivot to Installment Loans

For three years, payday lenders have been bracing for dedicated scrutiny from a U.S. agency for the first time. One way they’re getting ready: switching to loans designed to fall outside the regulator’s grasp.

Companies including Cash America International Inc. (CSH) and Advance America Cash Advance Centers Inc. (AEA) are increasingly selling longer-term installment loans to avoid rules the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau may impose on their shorter-term products.

Read the entire article by clicking here.

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Loan sharks…that high-interest loan companies in North Carolina “haven’t had a rate increase in 30 years”  tell him/her that this statement is, in a word, baloney (and feel free to use a stronger word).

#1: Inflation for lenders is accounted for through the issuance of larger and larger loans, not higher and higher interest rates. As with home and car loans, the average finance company loan in North Carolina 30 years ago was much smaller than it is today. It is simply absurd to even imply Read More