Washington State Department of Financial Institutions

News Release

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Deborah Bortner, Director of Consumer Services
PH (360) 902-0511 deb.bortner@dfi.wa.gov

Jeremy Lushene, Communications
PH (360) 902-0506 jeremy.lushene@dfi.wa.gov

Lyn Peters, Director of Communications
PH (360) 349-8501 lyn.peters@dfi.wa.gov


DFI Issues Emergency Rule Protecting Consumers from 'Unconscionable Terms' Attached To Small Loans

Amended rule restricts fees: lenders may not charge a fee of more than $50

OLYMPIA – The Washington State Department of Financial Institutions issued an emergency rule yesterday, providing stronger protection for consumers taking small loans. The rule went into effect immediately upon filing, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2009.

“This rule is a result of our learning a consumer had been charged a $1,950 participation fee for a $600 loan,” DFI Director of Consumer Services Deb Bortner explained. “That’s the equivalent of more than 4,000 percent interest – it’s simply unconscionable to charge such outrageous fees.”

This emergency rule was made effective immediately in an effort to protect consumers and prevent lenders from circumventing the will of the legislature. DFI does, however, intend to begin a notice and negotiated rulemaking within 120 days from the filing of this emergency rulemaking. DFI may also seek a statutory remedy to this situation.

This amendment (PDF)* (Amending WSR 09-24-090) will come in addition to the new laws regulating payday loans that become effective Jan. 1, 2010.

“It is our hope that this amendment to the rules regulating loans, in addition to the new laws, will close any unforeseen loopholes in Washington’s Consumer Loan Act and help DFI protect consumers from abusive lending practices while making sure access to these short-term loans continue for those who may not have borrowing alternatives,” Scott Jarvis, Director of DFI said. “It is important to note that this emergency action was prompted by the actions of a very limited number of lenders. The overwhelming majority of our lenders do their best to comply with our laws and the rules governing loan practices,” Jarvis noted.

The amendment includes three key additions:

The Washington State Legislature passed two new payday lending laws earlier this year – one of which will have significant impact on how consumers use payday loans.

Some of the biggest changes stem from ESHB 1709, Chapter 510 Laws of 2009 (PDF)* that will go into effect Jan. 1, 2010:

The other law, SB 5164, Chapter 13 Laws of 2009 (PDF)*, became effective July 26, 2009. In the past, when a payday loan company collected its own debts it was not subject to Washington’s collection agency practices act which has many protections for consumers. This law protects consumers from harassing or intimidating behavior when payday loan companies collect their own debts.

For more information, please see DFI’s Web sites regarding the 2010 changes with FAQs for industry http://dfi.wa.gov/cs/payday-loans-2010-changes-faqs.htm and consumers http://dfi.wa.gov/consumers/education/payday_loans.htm.

Before taking a payday loan DFI urges consumers to verify the licensing status of any payday lender they’re considering taking a loan from. (Go to www.dfi.wa.gov and click on “verify a license” to enter the payday lender information into the database query form.) All payday lenders offering services to Washington residents — including Internet payday lenders — are required by state law to be licensed by DFI before doing business in our state. Some online payday lenders offer services that are not legal in Washington State.

About DFI
www.dfi.wa.gov ▪ 360.902-8700 ▪ 877.746-4334
The Washington State Department of Financial Institutions regulates a variety of financial service providers such as banks, credit unions, mortgage brokers, consumer loan companies, payday lenders and securities brokers and dealers. The department also works to improve financial education throughout Washington through its outreach programs and online clearinghouse www.dfi.wa.gov/financial-education. In addition to posting information about licensees and administrative actions, DFI uses the Web and social media to provide financial education information: www.twitter.com/FinEd4All, www.twitter.com/DFIConsumers, www.finlit.blogspot.com, www.youtube.com/user/WADFI, www.homeownership.wa.gov.

About Consumer Services
www.dfi.wa.gov/cs ▪ 360.902-8703 ▪ 877.746-4334
The mission of the Division of Consumer Services is to protect consumers from illegal and fraudulent lending practices. The division accomplishes its mission through licensing, licensee examinations, investigations, and enforcing selected state and federal statutes and rules. Consumer Services regulates the business activities of consumer loan companies, mortgage brokers, money transmitters and currency exchangers, as well as check cashers and sellers, also known as "payday lenders." The Division is entirely self-supporting, with funding provided by licensing, auditing, and policing of regulated businesses and individuals. No money is received from the state General Fund or other public revenue source.

* This document is a PDF file, and you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view it. If you don't already have Acrobat Reader installed on your computer, you may download it for free from Adobe.