Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Ohio Payday, Auto Title Lending Outfits Do End-Run Around State Interest Caps To Lock Financially Strapped Borrowers Into E-Z To Get, Hard-To-Pay-Off Loans

In Columbus, Ohio, the Dayton Daily News reports:

  • Storefront and online lenders are offering a new form of expensive credit — with fees and interest rates totaling more than 300 percent in some cases — by exploiting the same legal loopholes used to sidestep voter-approved rate caps on standard payday loans, a Dayton Daily News investigation found.

    “Auto title loans” give borrowers quick and easy access to cash but at a steep price. Not only do the agreements carry high fee and interest costs — far above the 28 percent rate ceiling that Ohio voters endorsed for short-term loans in 2008 — but consumers risk having their vehicles repossessed.
  • An employee at a newly opened LoanMax store at 2601 S. Smithville Road in Dayton told an undercover Daily News reporter that someone taking out a $400 loan would have to pay back $536 after 30 days. On a $1,000 loan, a borrower would have to repay $1,325, the employee said.

    If those fees and interest were calculated as an annual percentage rate, both loans would have an effective APR of around 400 percent.

    Consumer advocates call auto title lending a dangerous practice that traps people in debt and sometimes takes away an asset that is worth more than the loan: their car or truck. In Texas, an average of 93 people a day have their cars repossessed by auto title lenders, which works out to be a 6 percent repossession rate, according to 2012 data from the Texas Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner.
  • Critics say lenders are doing an end-run around the state’s 2008 Short Term Loan Act, which was heavily opposed by the payday lending industry and overwhelmingly approved by voters in a statewide referendum.
  • Payday and auto title lenders sidestep the strict limits imposed by the Short Term Loan Act by licensing their businesses under the Second Mortgage Loan Act or the Credit Services Organization Act. Both laws permit fees on top of whatever interest rate is charged.

    The Second Mortgage Loan Act was originally designed for borrowers taking out a cash loan with their house put up as security. The CSO act was aimed at regulating the credit repair businesses that collected fees but did little to help consumers consolidate debt or clear up credit blemishes. Now payday lenders licensed as CSOs offer to help borrowers repair their credit by obtaining a payday or auto title loan.
  • When the Daily News undercover reporter visited the LoanMax store on South Smithville, the employee outlined a dizzying array of potential fees. Asked what would happen if a loan wasn’t repaid in 30 days, the employee said as long as a borrower made a “minimum payment” roughly equal to the fees and interest (paying $142 on the $400 loan), they could essentially start over with a new loan of the same amount.

    The employee pointed out that the minimum payment would only pay down $6 of the principal on the loan, then added that “you can do that as many times as you need to.”

    If a borrower did that three times, the dollar amount on fees and interest would be higher than the original loan amount.

    The cost is more steep for those who can’t pay off the loan or make the minimum payment. “If you don’t pay either one of these, there’s 30 days before we would repo the car,” the employee said.
For more, see Popular auto title loans offer fast cash at steep price (Lenders exploit legal loophole to exceed caps on payday loans).

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