Federal regulator clamps down on payday lending industry
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NEW YORK — A federal regulator announced new restrictions Thursday on the payday lending industry, a move that is likely to face resistance in Congress.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s finalized rules largely reflect what the agency proposed last year. They are the first nationwide regulation of the industry, which had largely been left to the states.
Under the new rules, lenders will have to do a full-payment test before giving the loan, meaning the lender must determine whether the borrower can afford to repay the loan in full with interest within 30 days.
Most payday loans are required to be paid in full when they come due, usually two weeks to a month after the money is borrowed, and the goal of the new regulations are to prove that borrowers are able to repay that money without having to renew the loan repeatedly. There would also be restrictions on the number of times a borrower can renew the loan.
Since payday lending customers are often in dire situations, and renewing a loan is common, this test will likely significantly curtail the industry.
“Too often, borrowers who need quick cash end up trapped in loans they can’t afford. The rule’s common-sense ability-to-repay protections prevent lenders from succeeding by setting up borrowers to fail,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray in a statement.
The CFPB is announcing other restrictions as well, like the number of times a payday lender can attempt to debit a borrowers’ account for the full amount without getting additional authorization.
Liberal-leaning consumer advocates, who have long pushed for additional regulations against the industry, cheered the decision.
“Payday and car title lenders profit from repeatedly dragging hard-pressed people deeper and deeper into debt, and taking advantage of families when they are financially vulnerable,” said Lisa Donner with Americans for Financial Reform. “Curbing the ability to push loans that borrowers clearly cannot repay is a key protection.”
But the new rules are likely to face scrutiny from Congress. The payday lending industry has a significant lobbying presence in Washington and Republicans tend to be hostile toward any regulations proposed by the CFPB, which was created under the Obama administration. Congressional Republicans have called for President Donald Trump to fire Cordray, and there are bills pending in Congress to more severely restrict the types of regulations the CFPB can propose.
There’s also a bill pending in Congress to roll back other consumer protections the agency has finalized, most notably the rules ending what is known as forced arbitration, where banks and financial companies can force consumers into third party arbitration instead of allowing consumers to file class-action lawsuits against them.