Right now, there are more payday lending stores in the United States than there are McDonald’s or Starbucks locations.
This industry continues to prey on Ohioans, and new evidence shows that its reach is spreading throughout our state.
For years, payday lenders have marketed their products as one-time, quick fixes to help people get through difficult times and financial emergencies. But in reality, consumers are using payday loans to cover basic expenses, like groceries, bills and rent.
Last year, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB, found that four out of five payday loans are rolled over or renewed, trapping borrowers in a cycle of debt. The average borrower winds up paying more in fees than he or she originally borrowed. According to a multi-year investigation by the Pew Charitable Trusts, on average, borrowers take out eight payday loans a year, spending $520 on interest for a $375 loan.
Ohio’s General Assembly and Ohio voters have both passed laws to limit the triple-digit interest rates and deceptive practices that these lenders use. But payday lenders have stayed one step ahead of the sheriff, skirting existing consumer protections by reorganizing their business practices to fall under a different section of law. A new report from the Center for Responsible Lending shows how payday and car title lenders have exploited loopholes in Ohio law to continue to saddle borrowers with triple-digit interest rates.
And the payday lending industry continues to grow.
In Ohio, there are now 836 stores generating more than $500 million in predatory loan fees each year — twice as much as they collected in 2005, according to the report. Car title lending accounts, which also carry triple-digit interest rates, make up $318 million of those fees. This can be a serious problem for borrowers who rely on their cars to get to work.
This is why Congress created the CFPB in 2010 — to fill the gaps in oversight of these shadowy financial markets, and protect the 43 percent of American households who have used small-dollar loans like these at some point in their lives.
In June, I sent a letter to the CFPB urging it to enact the strongest consumer protections possible to ensure that these products are affordable and sustainable. It has now been more than five months since that letter, and it’s time for the CFPB to act.
That means that the final rule should include limits on costs, requirements to ensure consumers can repay their loans, products with longer repayment terms, and the ability to pay down loan principal.
Ohioans shouldn’t be trapped in a never-ending cycle of debt by predatory loans.
Sherrod Brown is a Democratic senator who represents Ohio in the U.S. Senate in Washington, D.C.