House passes bill closing loopholes in small loans law

SANTA FE—The New Mexico House of Representatives passed a bill today cleaning up state law that regulates storefront lenders. HB 150 protects New Mexico borrowers and ensures accountability and transparency in the storefront lending industry.
 
“All New Mexicans deserve access to fair and transparent loans under reasonable terms, but unfortunately, the current law has loopholes that fail to carry out the legislature’s intent to protect borrowers,” said Lindsay Cutler, attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “HB 150 proposes effective data reporting requirements and consistency in consumer protections for all borrowers, ensuring New Mexico families receive fairer loans and that the state can better monitor storefront lenders.”

New Mexico’s first across-the-board interest rate cap went into effect in January 2018, capping interest rates on storefront loans at 175 percent APR. Yet high fees and loan rollovers continue to drain income from New Mexico borrowers. The two laws that regulate storefront lenders, the Small Loan and Bank Installment Loan Acts, still contain inconsistent fee and language provisions, do not require sufficient reporting to the Financial Institutions Division to enforce consumer protections, and do not make clear borrowers’ rights on loan renewals.

If passed by the Senate and signed into law, HB 150 would:

  • Require lenders to provide effective data on small loans, enabling the FID to verify storefront lenders are adhering to small loans law and evaluate how the law is impacting New Mexicans;
  • Allow borrowers 24 hours to rescind a high-interest loan;
  • Align fee provisions, disclosure requirements, and penalty provisions so consumer protections are consistent for all borrowers; and
  • Define what it means to make a new loan to protect New Mexican borrowers from potential loopholes in loan rollovers and renewals.

“The small loan industry makes hundreds of millions of dollars from hardworking New Mexico families,” said Cutler. “The House has taken an important step in passing HB 150 and we are optimistic that the Senate will follow suit. We cannot allow lenders to continue to circumvent protections put in place two legislative sessions ago. Small loan reforms are absolutely necessary if we hope to meaningfully stop predatory lending practices.”

Indian Affairs Committee asks for FID report on law capping store front loans  

CHAMA—At a legislative hearing in Chama today, the New Mexico Indian Affairs Committee passed a resolution asking the Financial Institutions Division to report on how it is enforcing a new law that caps interest rates on small loans and to provide data collected from lenders on the loan products they sell. The FID report is due for presentation to the committee later this fall.

“All New Mexicans deserve access to fair and transparent loans under reasonable terms, but generations of low-income families and Native American communities have been aggressively targeted by unscrupulous store front lenders,” said Lindsay Cutler, attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “The FID has a duty to enforce the new law and protect families from unfair lending practices. The new law went into effect in January, but FID still hasn’t updated its regulations to reflect the new standards. Without information on FID enforcement, we don’t have a clear picture of how the small loan industry is doing business with New Mexico families and how the new law is affecting New Mexicans. We’re grateful that the Indian Affairs Committee has asked the FID to report on its enforcement efforts.”

Before passage of HB 347 in the 2017 legislative session, most small loans were unregulated and borrowers were frequently charged interest rates of 300 percent APR or more. Reforms to the Small Loan Act are now in effect, capping interest rates at 175 percent APR and eliminating traditional short term payday and title loans. The new law requires lenders to provide clear information about the costs of loans, allows borrowers to develop a credit history when they make payments on small-dollar loans, and sets minimum contract terms for small loans, including at least four payments and 120 days to pay off most loans. Refund anticipation loans are exempt from those requirements.

The FID proposed regulations to implement HB 347 in late February 2018 to eliminate inconsistencies between the new law and the old payday lending regulations. Loan renewals, however, are not addressed by the FID’s proposed regulations. This loophole could leave borrowers vulnerable to interest rates and fees that are now illegal under the law for new loans. The Center urges the FID to close this loophole by clarifying that renewals are subject to the law’s fee limit, interest rate cap, and payment schedule requirements for new loans.

“Passing HB 347 was a necessary first step, but enforcing regulation and compliance with the law is the critical next step in protecting our families and ensuring that all New Mexicans have equal access to affordable loans and protection from predatory lending practices,” said Michael Barrio, Director of Advocacy for Prosperity Works. “The data and reporting transparency we seek is necessary to close loopholes that could render HB 347 ineffective, and to augment existing consumer protections in New Mexico. Our focus, now, is on creating transparency and eliminating loopholes that can be used to continue exploiting hard-working New Mexicans. We’re making progress every day.”

The FID’s proposed regulations can be found here: www.rld.state.nm.us/financialinstitutions/

The Center’s comments on the proposed regulations can be found here: https://wp.me/a7pqlk-10H

A factsheet on regulations the FID should enact to enforce the small loans act can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/fact-sheet-fid-must-enact-regulations-to-enforce-the-small-loans-act-2018-07/