AFR Applauds Introduction of Veterans and Consumers Fair Credit Act

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Bipartisan legislation known as Veterans and Consumers Fair Credit Act would expand Military Lending Act protections on payday loans to veterans and civilians alike

Washington, DC – Americans for Financial Reform today applauded the introduction of the Veterans and Consumers Fair Credit Act of 2019, legislation that would extend the 36 percent APR interest rate cap on payday and car-title lenders in the Military Lending Act (MLA) to cover all Americans.

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The bill was introduced by Representatives Jesús “Chuy” García (D-IL) and Glenn Grothman (R-WI) in the House and Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jack Reed (D-RI) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) in the Senate. The MLA caps interest rates on loans to active service members and their families, but veterans and civilians are not protected under current law.

“For too long, payday and car-title lenders have been allowed to exploit the most vulnerable members of our communities,” said Linda Jun, senior policy counsel for Americans for Financial Reform. “As the current CFPB attempts to roll back guardrails to prevent this kind of abuse, Congress is right to take the initiative to address the problem. This bill will establish nationwide safeguards to protect consumers from dangerous debt traps.”

Payday and car-title lenders often target veterans and vulnerable consumers, and communities of color, promising quick access to money in a pinch. These loans often come with triple-digit interest rates that make it nearly impossible to pay back the loan.

In fact, about 80 percent of borrowers have to take out another payday loan to repay the original loan, initiating a spiraling cycle often referred to as the “debt trap.” Every time a person takes out another loan, the overall amount of debt increases as interest and fees pile on Collectively, the debt trap is draining $8 billion every year from American consumers. By prohibiting loans with an APR above 36 percent, this bill would fight the debt trap. Among its provisions:

Veterans and Consumers Fair Credit Act details

  • Reestablishing a simple, common sense limit to stop predatory lending. Extending  the MLA’s 36 percent interest rate cap would  return  to the kinds of state usury laws that were in force in virtually every state for most of  the twentieth century.
  • Preventing hidden fees and loopholes. The 36 percent rate cap is based on the Pentagon’s successful rules for the MLA that include all additional fees or add-ons in the interest calculation.
  • A time tested approach. The MLA has worked to protect service members from payday abuses, and state rate caps have stopped the payday and car title debt trap for millions of people. A federal standard will help millions of additional people, and prevent evasions of existing state laws.
  • Making compliance easy. Compliance costs for industry will be low because creditors already understand how to comply and have systems in place for active duty military and their families.
  • Upholding stronger state protections. States like Arkansas, South Dakota, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New York and Montana already have strong interest rate caps.   The bill leaves in place any provisions of state laws that provide greater protections to consumers.

Opinion research shows voters, across party lines, are very critical of payday lending and support measures to rein it in. Voters have consistently supported the CFPB’s rule to verify borrowers’ ability to repay a loan before one is issued, and opposed the agency’s plan to roll it back at the behest of the payday lending industry. They also support state laws that cap interest rates on payday and car-title loans, similar to the Veterans and Consumers Fair Credit Act.

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