Reactions split over new payday lending task force

Published 3:00 am Thursday, June 16, 2016


Reactions are split over Gov. Robert Bentley’s creation of a task force to address predatory lending practices in the state.

Bentley signed an executive order Tuesday creating the Alabama Consumer Protection Task Force, which will consist of 33 experts that will “work to identify areas of Alabama’s consumer credit laws that could be improved to better protect citizens from predatory lending practices.”

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Troy Councilwoman Dejerilyn Henderson praised the task force as an “excellent idea.”

“It’s a step forward to how Alabama needs to handle the industry,” she said. “I’m hoping the task force can be a catalyst to let legislators know that the requirements placed on these lenders are too lenient.”

Henderson emphasized the problem of the effects lenders have on low-income and minority areas.

“You see them in low-income communities,” she said. “Or communities where the Hispanic population is higher. They’re target people who can’t do any better.”

However, Henderson said she still hopes lawmakers will address the issue with the Payday Loan Reform Bill that made its way through the legislature in the last session.

That bill was supported by Alabama Arise Citizens’ Policy Project, one of the organizations selected to have a member serve as part of Bentley’s task force.

Stephen Stetson, a consumer rights policy analyst with Alabama Arise, said the organization is glad to be invited to be a part of the conversation, but doesn’t believe a task force is necessary to solve the issue of predatory lending.

“The solutions are not mysterious,” he said. “We’ve been studying this for years, we have countless narratives from borrowers, and solid reform bills have been coming through the legislature. We were one day away from passing a reform bill in the legislative session.”

The bill introduced by Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, would have extended the maximum time allotted to repay loans to six months instead of 30 days. Lenders can currently charge up to 456 percent APR. Orr said his bill would lower the top interest rate to 120 percent APR.

Stetson said Alabama Arise had hoped for a 36 percent cap, but that Orr’s bill was the most viable solution. The bill was amended in the house and didn’t make it into law.

“The votes were there,” Stetson said. “There just wasn’t enough time.”

While Stetson said he didn’t believe the task force was necessary to find a solution to the payday lending issue, he noted that the task force will also look at other issues concerning consumer debt that he believes are worth looking at and having open dialogue about.