Prop S could increase regulation on payday loans

Tuesday, voters will be asked to put more regulation to the city's payday loan industry.

Tuesday, voters will be asked to put more regulation to the city's payday loan industry.

Proposition S would impose an annual fee on payday loan businesses and even regulate where they can operate.

Last year, a state report found more than 1.6 million payday loans were issued in Missouri. The report said some customers were paying $55 a day in interest.

Those who took out money say payday loans are rarely the quick fix they appear to be.

Renee Irby works hard to provide for her five children, but she recently found herself having to choose between fixing her car and feeding her family.

"We didn't have good credit, or a credit card or anyone to fall back on," said Irby, who works as a maid in the Hill neighborhood. 

Irby reluctantly fell back on another option, a payday loan.

"It's either take this loan out so you can repair your car or lose your job. I don't know what else we could've done but that's the desperation they're taking advantage of, with these really high interest rates," said Irby.

Although she only borrowed a few hundred dollars, Irby ended up paying $300 a month in interest for almost a year.

"This is legalized loan sharking," said Irby.

"The average interest rate charged on those loans was 462 percent. It's absolute highway robbery what we allow these lenders to charge," said Cara Spencer, the Ward 20 Aldermen and sponsor of the legislation.

Enter proposition S: which calls for a $5,000 annual permit fee for lenders. That money would be used to hire an inspector and enforce other regulations involving the clear posting of fees and interest rates. It requires lenders to offer more affordable alternatives to customers.

"We do have some growing non-profits that provide alternative products that have much lower interest rates, that are able to fill in the gap where families need it most," Spencer said. "Prosperity connection has a product called Red Dough and they have a couple of locations. Justine Peterson is another small dollar lender that has very respectable interest rates and non predatory practices. We are hoping to grow those non predatory products and offerings."

The proposition also calls for keeping lenders 500 feet away from houses, churches and schools, and at least one mile from similar businesses.

Spencer said it's time Missouri took a page from its neighbors

"Missouri has some of the most lax laws in the entire country when it comes to predatory and payday loans. we allow a rate that is five times the rate of all surrounding states," said Spencer.

Irby eventually paid off her loan, but she said she paid thousands of dollars in interest.

"It's poor people taking out these loans, poor people who can't afford to pay all this interest. and in the long run, you're just keeping people in poverty. The service needs to be a better deal for the consumer," said Irby.

Representatives for United Payday Lenders of Missouri declined to comment specifically about the legislation but told Five on your side, the pay loan industry is already highly regulated by the state. 

Spencer said she hopes to take this issue to the state legislature and get an interest rate cap enforced on the payday loan industry in Missouri.

© 2017 KSDK-TV


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