Friday, January 2, 2009

Payday Piracy

New state regulations governing payday lending institutions took effect today. Anyone who has spent significant time in the Southside will recognize the importance of this legislation for our area. Martinsville and Henry County are riddled with them--driving through Collinsville, one can count at least 12 pay day lenders just in a 2-mile stretch of this blog's namesake.

These are truly vile institutions--with easy loans and impossibly high interest rates, they prey on the poor and those who desperately need money. Once someone has accepted such loans, they are forever trapped under a mountain of debt that they can never pay off. Naturally predatory lenders have sprung up like weeds in areas like Martinsville that have been hard-hit by unemployment.

I applaud the effort to do something about these institutions; however, as this article in the Danville Register-Bee has pointed out, the regulations remain far from perfect and the crooks--er,--lenders are already finding the loopholes. This little tidbit is especially infuriating: 

In the meantime, the State Corporation Commission approved 11 payday lending companies’ requests to offer open-end credit products. Another seven applications are pending.

In Virginia, lenders offering open-end credit are unregulated. They can charge whatever they want as long as they don’t charge anything for the first 25 days. (My emphasis)

Awesome. So if you want to systematically rob poor people and hold them in perpetual debt, all you have to do is not charge interest for the first 25 days. I'm not sure I have words scathing enough for the flagrant incompetence exhibited by the bolded sentence above. I will be interested to see how the gubernatorial candidates respond to this news, given that the State Corporation Commission is (correct me if I'm wrong) an executive branch agency. Please call your legislators before the General Assembly session and let them know how you feel about this subject. Thanks for reading.

Cross-posted to Blue Commonwealth.


Drew said...

This pisses me off. And every time I read about payday lenders, I think of that two-mile road with over a dozen lenders - the one you pointed out. How is there a market for all of them? Its the high unemployment rates as you point out. In an area with a devastated economy, these lenders just contribute to the injustice.

Alton Foley said...

Me Too!!!
That area's representation in the General Assembly has got to change!