Putting brakes on sky high interest rates for 'payday' loans

February 5, 2013 4:44:07 PM PST
If you need money in a pinch, you can find someone willing to hand out a payday loan in Houston easily. But they come with a big catch -- sky high interest rates. Now the city is considering new rules for those businesses.

On a stretch of South Post Oak, there is no shortage of payday loan facilities offering fast cash and easy money. But Paul Henry has learned his lesson after getting an $800 loan a few years ago.

"By the time you get through paying the interest and re-upping and re-upping, the payday loan comes out to about $2,000 on an $800 loan," he said.

On Tuesday, the city of Houston laid out a series of proposed regulations that, if passed, would put a cap on non-auto loans at 35 percent of a person's gross monthly income. Auto title loans would be capped at six percent of annual income or 70 percent of the car's worth, whatever is less.

Consumer advocates say Houston's proposal doesn't go far enough, unlike tougher regulations already in place in Dallas.

"It's a dangerous direction to go in, because if you do something that doesn't have the intended effects, then people will say, great, we solved the problem," suggested Ann Baddour, a consumer advocate with Texas Appleseed.

Leaders in the payday lending business insist it's a workable compromise.

Rob Norcross with the Consumer Service Alliance of Texas said, "When you have something that's been discussed as much as this has, and you have a lot of different pieces in the ordinance, you're never going to get everybody to agree."

City Attorney Dave Feldman said, "The city of Houston will only act if the state legislature fails to act."

City leaders are giving lawmakers until the summer to enact state-wide legislation. In the meantime, the payday lending continues, just not for former customer Paul Henry.

"I'm through with payday loans," he laughed.

The city, consumer advocates and the payday loan representatives all say they would like to see state-wide regulations. That's one thing all sides do agree on.

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