Payday lenders do a brisk business in Utah by promising quick cash to help struggling consumers who come up short between paychecks. They market themselves as a helping hand when trouble strikes, but too many Utahns don’t recognize how much trouble they can find themselves in if they don’t pay back their loans quickly.
According to an October report from the Utah Department of Financial Institutions, over 45,000 loans were not repaid in full at the end of 10 weeks. The Salt Lake Tribune recently found that this resulted in at least 7,927 lawsuits from payday lenders against delinquent clients from July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2015. And since the average payday loan carries an interest rate of 482 percent, these lawsuits were often seeking sums that were exponentially larger than the amount of money that people originally borrowed.
State Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, noted that this massive onslaught of litigation "puts the lie to the notion that people pay back these loans on time, and without excessive penalties and interest.” He’s exactly right. Yet this should come as no surprise, as payday loans are generally appealing only to those with no other financial options. Traditional lenders with far more reasonable rates also require good credit and sufficient collateral. Those who turn to payday lenders are far more likely to lack both of those things, which means they’re also far less likely to fully understand the extent of the massive financial risk they're facing when they turn to usurious brokers for help.
Payday lenders are quick to point out they are operating within the bounds of the law and that they fully disclose the terms of their lending practices at the time loans are issued. The lawsuits, therefore, are filed in accordance with existing legal limits and are therefore an appropriate measure to take to collect legitimate debts.
While all that is true, it’s hard not to view this is as an industry that doesn’t prey on the ignorance of its customers. Yes, it’s the customer’s fault if he doesn’t read the fine print, but people who get all the details about financial transactions upfront aren’t generally those who get payday loans. The volume of the warnings upfront ought to be commensurate with the enormity of negative consequences that await defaulters on the back end, and that is not currently the way this business is conducted. Consumers, therefore, should be mindful of the possibility of litigation and even bankruptcy as they listen to all the jaunty radio ads that promise easy cash fast.