By Ryan C. Wood
I keep reading articles about cities trying to regulate payday loan companies with land use restrictions and other measures. While that is great news I cannot help but think payday loan companies should just be illegal altogether. States like California should just revoke payday loan companies’ corporate status and cities should revoke their business licenses. Why is it so hard to regulate what clearly is a horrible business model for those who are the consumers facing financial difficulties?
What Happened to the Time Honored Ways to Get Short-Term Money?
There have been time honored ways to obtain short-term loans when things go sideways. The first is primarily friends and family members that do not charge immoral interest rates and work with their relative or friend to get paid back. The second way is pawn shops that also do not charge immoral interest rates and are highly regulated. A third option is getting an advance from your employer. These are the time honored ways to get short-term money to get by. Today, payday loans are charging people immoral interest rates and making matters worse for people who obtain the loans. I have witnessed an interest rate of 1,000% in writing from a payday loan company. How can this be legal?
The Real Problem: People/Customers Who Get Payday Loans Have No Voice
What do I mean when I say they “have no voice?” It means justice is not free and you have to have money to get justice in this world. Sorry if this is the first time you have been told this, but it is the cold hard truth. Bankruptcy attorneys and attorneys in general can less and less go out on a limb and take cases on for a contingency fee. Even in contingency fee agreements the expenses for the litigation of the case are paid for by the client normally. Do you know how much it costs to sue for your rights being trampled? In San Mateo County the filing fee for a limited civil lawsuit ($10,000 or less in damages alleged) is $240.00 plus serving the lawsuit on the party you are suing. There are ways to serve the summons and complaint for free. Did I hear someone say small claims court? A small claims court complaint costs $181.00 to file in San Mateo County. Yeah, well, that is an option, but I have not witnessed people actually following through with doing it themselves and then enforcing the judgment to get paid if successful. Remember you do not just get a check when you get a judgment. You have to then spend time and money to satisfy the judgment. If someone is getting a payday loan they do not have the money for any of this and probably do not have the time either. How does someone take a day off from work or more for small claims court to just reduce their income further causing more hardship?
What happens when the person does not pay on time? The payday loan company violates the law when attempting to collect the debt. They harass people at work, tell them they are going to be arrested and they will go to jail, call their family members and harass them. What do people do when their rights are violated and crimes are committed against them by these payday loan companies? Not a damn thing. They have no money so they have no voice. They are just trying to keep food on the table and a roof over their head. It just keeps going on and on like this until they get sick of it and come to someone like me. I file bankruptcy for them and now there is an enforceable order of discharge to hopefully make it all go away. No more 500% interest rate. No more phone calls. No more harassment of their relatives. No more phone calls to their work.
Payday Loan Companies are the Worst When Trying to Collect
But wait, it actually does not stop there sometimes. I can tell you as a bankruptcy lawyer that the most likely creditors that mercilessly harass our clients long after an order of discharge is entered are payday loan companies and their collection agencies. Just like clockwork while I am writing this article I received a phone call from a client that we filed chapter 7 bankruptcy for about two years ago. She received a harassing phone call from a collection agency. When I say harassing I mean the person was yelling at her and being very rude. She received multiple calls at work and on her cell phone. She was told that she has two felonies against her and she would be put into jail if she did not pay them $1,900.00 immediately. I have read there are people impersonating the Internal Revenue Service doing this same thing. In this case though the collection agency was collecting a debt for guess who? It was a payday loan company. So the payday loan company fully knowing the debt was discharged in the chapter 7 bankruptcy case sold/assigned collection of the discharged debt to this ruthless law breaking collection agency. It happen all the time and more often than not the original debt was from a payday loan company.