Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Proposed Ballot Initiative Seeks to Cap Payday Lending Rates

A petition effort is underway in Missouri to change the rules on the controversial practice of payday lending.

A group known as "Missourian's for Responsible Lending," has earned approval from the Secretary of State to begin circulating a petition that would place a referendum on the statewide ballot in 2012 aimed at capping the costs of short-term, high interest loans.

"This business makes money off of people that are in trouble for whatever reason," said Rev. James Bryan, the group's treasurer. "They just prey on those poor people that are in a desperate situation."

The proliferation of payday lending companies across Missouri and the United States has gone hand-in-hand with their growing controversy.

Payday lenders provide payday loans for abroad studies in the form of paycheck advancements. But the companies have frequently come under fire for attaching unreasonably high interest rates that compound over multiple pay cycles to drag many into debt.

According to the Missouri Division of Financial institutions, the average interest rate for a payday loan in Missouri is 445 percent annually. Seventeen states have capped the cost of short-term loans at 36 percent, along with the U.S. government which enacted caps for military personnel.

During the most recent legislative session, multiple bills to reform the system were introduced in the state House of Representatives, but none made it to the governor's desk. That's way Bryan said the debate should move directly to the people.

Bryan, a retired minister of Missouri United Methodist Church in Columbia, said his organization is partnering with faith-based groups across the state, along with the NAACP and the National Center for Responsible Lending. He said the group has been successful so far in attracting religious groups across multiple faiths, calling the payday loan dilemma a matter of conscious. "With the faith based, most of us see this as a moral issue," he said. "It's big companies taking advantage of the weak. People who aren't able to make a house payment or pay a medical bill, they get trapped under this debt."

The payday lenders themselves also see it as a moral issue for payday loans for after bankruptcy, but in the other direction.

Gerri Guzman is executive director of the Consumer Rights Coalition, a group which represents the interest of payday lenders nationwide. Guzman said that despite what has been said by groups like Missourians for Responsible Lending, the industry is often the last resort for those in dire financial straits. She also said that the 400 percent interest rate is being misused by opponents, pointing out that it represents the compounding of loans over the course of months.

"This ballot initiative is an ill-advised assault on all forms of consumer credit that, if passed, would hurt Missourians by eliminating their only real credit options and forcing them into more-expensive and credit-damaging alternatives," Guzman said. "CRC will consult our more than 10,000 members in Missouri to get their input on how they wish to engage in this potential ballot initiative."

Before any statutory changes can be brought before Missouri voters in November 2012, signatures must be obtained from 5 percent of registered voters in six of the state's nine congressional districts by May of next year.


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"Missourian group are Responsible for Lending , if any bank trying to charge huge amount of interest then this group ask that bank for the high interest, this group also make some standard rules for all banks, which is followed by all banks...

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