REPORT: Pay Day Lenders gouging Floridians

Posted at 7:05 PM, Mar 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-28 15:47:19-04
They may be convenient and easy to get, but payday loans are costing Floridians hundreds of millions of dollars every year in fees.
Floridians paid $311 million in fees from June 2014 to June 2015, according to the Center for Responsible Lending, a non-profit consumer advocacy group.
Over the past decade, the CRL found Floridians paid about $2.5 Billion in fees alone.
Why are Floridians paying so much in fees?
A 2001 law that was supposed to limit the negative effects of payday loans failed to address high-interest rates.
Those interest rates, if loans aren't paid back quickly, are a common reason people get trapped in debt.
"Our analysis shows that the law has done nothing to stop the debt trap," said CRL policy counsel Brandon Coleman, co-author of a new report about the issue. "With 83% of payday loans going to people stuck in 7 or more loans per year, it's easy to see how Florida's law is failing consumers."
14 states currently enforce rate caps that protect against triple-digit payday loan interest rates.
Florida is not one of those states.
When someone can't pay a loan, the lender sometimes offers another loan, creating a cycle of debt.
"Payday lenders target the poor. They make a lot of money lending to people they know cannot pay them back," explains attorney Billy Howard of The Consumer Protection Firm. "They trap people by offering them another loan," he tells ABC Action News.
Those remarks are backed up by the new the CLR report, which shows that in 2015, 83% of loans went to people who already have 7 or more loans. 57% of loan transactions were generated by borrowers stuck in 12 or more loans, according to the CLR.
"Almost every pay day loan that I've looked at has one thing in common: I think gosh, what a rip-off," says Howard.
If a pay day lender is harassing you with frequent calls to collect money, that is against the law, and Howard's law firm specializes in suing those lenders.
If you are simply unable to pay back a debt or loan, experts say you should visit a non-profit consumer credit counselor; you can find one by turning to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.