On March 25, the CFPB released a report and held a field hearing on payday loans. Through both, the CFPB sought to expand the record on which it will formulate new rules to address its concerns about the payday lending market. Director Cordray indicated in his remarks at the field hearing that the CFPB is on the verge of initiating the public phase of a rulemaking.
The report—the first such “Data Point” report from the CFPB’s Office of Research—focuses on “loan sequences,” what the CFPB describes as “a series of loans taken out within 14 days of repayment of a prior loan.” The analysis was performed using the same data obtained from storefront payday lenders through the supervisory process and used by the CFPB in its prior analysis and report. Like the prior analysis, this latest analysis did not include online payday lending data. The CFPB acknowledges certain limitations of the data used, including that data collected from different lenders contain different levels of detail and that some lender data did not include default-related information. (Note that the CFSA challenged, under the Information Quality Act, the CFPB’s prior report and the data on which it relied. The CFPB rejected that challenge.)
The CFPB reports that over 80% of payday loans are rolled over or followed by another loan within 14 days. In addition, the CFPB’s report offers the following findings:
- State rollover restrictions: Same-day renewals are less frequent in states with mandated cooling-off periods, but 14-day renewal rates in states with cooling-off periods are nearly identical to states without such limitations.
- Sequence duration and volume: 36% of new loans end with loan being repaid; more than half of loans that are renewed are only renewed one time, but 22% of sequences extend for seven or more loans; 15% of new sequences are extended for 10 or more loans.
- Loan size and amortization: For more than 80% of the loan sequences that last for more than one loan, the last loan is the same size as or larger than the first loan in the sequence. Loan size is more likely to go up in longer loan sequences, and principal increases are associated with higher default rates.
- Loan usage: Monthly borrowers are disproportionately likely to stay in debt for 11 months or longer. Among new borrowers (i.e., those who did not have a payday loan at the beginning the year covered by the data), 22% of borrowers paid monthly averaged at least one loan per pay period. The majority of monthly borrowers are government benefits recipients. Most borrowing involves multiple renewals following an initial loan, rather than multiple distinct borrowing episodes separated by more than 14 days. Roughly half of new borrowers (48%) have one loan sequence during the year. Of borrowers who neither renewed nor defaulted during the year, 60% took out only one loan.
The Field Hearing
In remarks to open the hearing, Director Cordray offered his conclusion that “the business model of the payday industry depends on people becoming stuck in these loans for the long term, since almost half their business comes from people who are basically paying high-cost rent on the amount of their original loan.” He stated that the “fundamental problem is that too many borrowers cannot afford the debt they are taking on or at least cannot afford the size of the payments required by a payday loan.” He identified as a particular concern borrowers who receive monthly payments, including borrowers “who receive Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability or retirement benefits, are thus in serious danger of ensnaring themselves in a debt trap when they take out a payday loan.” Director Cordray suggested that state-mandated cooling off periods are insufficient to help consumers avoid these so-called debt traps.
Based on its payday lending supervisory program, the CFPB has concerns about the following payday practices: (i) inhibiting borrowers from using company payment plans that are intended to assist them when they have trouble repaying their outstanding loans; (ii) use of the electronic payment system in ways that pose risks to consumers; and (iii) unfair or deceptive collection activities, including using false threats, disclosing debts to third parties, making repeated phone calls, and continuing to call borrowers after being requested to stop.
Director Cordray stated that the Bureau is in “the late stages of its consideration about how [it] can formulate new rules to bring needed reforms to this market.” His comments and the study findings suggest that these new rules could include, among other things, ability to repay requirements, a two-week or more cooling off period, and limits on the number of rollover or renewal loans. The Director did not provide any additional detail on a rulemaking timeline, but it is likely to take many months . Director Cordray promised that any eventual rule will not limit access to small dollar credit for those who can afford it.