Don't subject payday lenders to reform
TEXT OF COMMENTARY
Kai Ryssdal: Once Congress gets back from its Easter break, financial reform is going to be right at the top of the list of things to do. The original idea behind writing new rules for Wall Street was to stop, or at least diminish, the next financial crisis.
Congress was going to do that by putting new limits on big banks and mortgage lenders. As things stands now, though, consumer loan companies that aren't banks, companies like payday lenders, are going to be covered by the regulations too.
Commentator and payday lender Darrin Andersen says that's a mistake.
Darrin Andersen: Main Street's search for short-term credit, like payday loans, played no part in the economic meltdown. But some are trying to use financial reform to throw the payday lending industry under the bus.
Federal regulation of our industry could choke off billions of dollars a year in credit to hard-working Americans. And it would do little to rein in the outrageous behavior of the too-big-to-fail financial institutions.
Critics like to attack what they call outrageous interest rates. Our product is compared to longer term loans for houses or cars. So the interest rates we print in the documents consumers sign are compounded over the course of a year. But our loans are paid back in two weeks, not 30 years.
Just as you wouldn't take a taxicab across the country, or permanently rent a hotel room, you would not take a payday loan out for an entire year.
Instead, customers see payday loans as a cheaper alternative to solving real-world problems like bounced checks, overdraft fees, or late bill payments. These loans are a way to avoid damage to a consumer's credit record. For the small number of customers who have a hard time paying back their loans when due, the industry offers a free extended payment plan.
Research shows that the vast majority of payday loan customers understand the product they're buying. The federal government should also understand that the industry is already highly regulated at the state level.
In fact, our product is better than any other form of consumer credit at meeting the stated objectives of financial reform: transparency, fairness, simplicity and access to credit in underserved markets.
Legislators should focus on the big banks that sold complex, opaque, and risky products that led to the financial meltdown. They should not restrict 19 million Americans who need it most from access to convenient and affordable credit.
RYSSDAL: Darrin Andersen is the president of QC Holdings. That's one of the biggest payday lenders in this country.