New agency hears payday loan complaints

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau set up to receive complaints


Consumer advocates have long warned you about the potential risks of payday loans.

Now, a federal agency wants to hear about your complaints and the challenges you face when taking the controversial loans.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is now set up to take a wide variety of complaints from consumers.

"Before the Consumer Bureau, consumers who had trouble with payday lending products had few places to turn," said CFPB Director Richard Cordray in a statement. "By accepting consumer complaints about payday loans, we will be giving people a greater voice in this market."

The CFPB also wants to hear from anyone who received a loan they did not apply for. This can happen when the lender mishandles personal information, such as a bank account number or Social Security number.

Desperate Times, Desperate Measures

Many Americans who are struggling to pay their bills turn to payday loans to pay for some of the basic necessities. About 12 million Americans use a payday loan service each year, according to a report by Pew Charitable Trusts published last month. These small, short-term loans are generally less than $500. It's a way for someone without credit to get a loan. But, it often comes at a high cost.

The Pew research found that most payday loan customers cannot make the full payment when it's due, so they take out a new loan every two weeks. This can go on for months. The end result: The average borrower spends $520 in interest to pay for a $375 loan.

The industry insists it provides "a valuable service" to customers who want and need these loans.

The Pew research found consumers are looking for better protection.

"The type of things that payday loan borrowers want: they want more time to pay off loans. They want the loans to take a smaller chunk of their paycheck. Right now, a payday loan takes one third of somebody's check," said Nick Bourke, Director of Safe Small-Dollar Loans Research Project at Pew.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says complaints can be filed online, by phone (toll-free at 1-855-411-2372 or TTY/TDD at 1-855-729- 2372), by fax (1-855-237-2392) or by mail (CFPB, P.O. Box 4503, Iowa City, Iowa 52244).

The website for the agency is www.consumerfinance.org.