Texas looks to regulate payday loan services

February 22, 2011 3:28:34 PM PST
Payday loans are a quick way to get money for those who are in need of fast cash, but they come with a price. That price can include high interest rates that make paying loans off extremely tough for people already financially strapped.

On Tuesday, lawmakers heard from pay lenders who say they are providing a valuable service. But they also heard from those who have taken the loans who say the fees and interest that come with the loans trap consumers into a cycle of needing another loan to pay off their last loan.

When Leah Wiseman needed money several years ago, she turned to a payday loan. Wiseman says her $375 loan took her four months to finally pay off.

"I had to always be doing another loan in order to take care of the previous loan," she said.

Wiseman says it was very difficult to eventually pay off what she owed.

"You never get ahead. There is no way to get ahead," Wiseman said.

John Villarreal also had trouble paying off his payday loan. He urges consumers to be very cautious before signing up for any fast loan.

"If you don't look into the details you will not know, so I encourage everyone to know what you're getting into," he said.

Now there are bills in both the Texas House and Texas Senate that would limit the fees payday loans charge to get loans for consumers.

The rules would not allow payday lenders to add fees to loans that come from a third party. Those fees can be up to $20 for every $100 borrowed and some loans have interest rates of more than 700 percent.

"These fees can be very damaging for these types of people who want these loans. They can't really afford the fees from the outset," said Leah Napoliello with the Houston Better Business Bureau.

But those who operate payday loan companies say they provide a valuable service to consumers who cannot get loans in emergencies from any other source.

On the proposals in Austin, the association that represents 13 payday loan companies says the following.

"Legislation would impose price controls and severe new restrictions on lenders and credit service organizations (CSOs) in the Lone Star State.

CSOs that facilitate small short-term loans in Texas are not opposed to future discussions about additional oversight. However, we strongly oppose this measure and any other bill that effectively eliminates consumer access to short-term credit."

The payday loan companies say the proposed rules would put them out of business. However, rates caps have been put in place in other states and the payday loan companies managed to survive.

If the state decides to impose rate caps, it still has to determine what that percentage would be.