Anti-poverty group rallies in New Westminster for changes to payday loan practices
ACORN says the predatory practices from payday lenders can saddle people with debt for years
A group of anti-poverty activists crowded around a loan business on Saturday to draw attention to the ways the high-interest, short-term loan industry in Canada can saddle low-income people with debt for years.
It's something experienced by Melanie Campbell, who was at the protest, and began taking out payday loans nine years ago. Now, she's not sure she'll ever get out of debt.
"I pay an average of $140 dollars every month since 2012," she told the group assembled.
"I've paid Money Mart over $13,000 and they tell me I still owe money today."
A payday loan is a short-term loan, often with high interest rates, which a borrower accesses in advance of their payday salary. Often borrowers who access payday loans aren't able to secure a loan from a bank.
Campbell says the pandemic has pushed more people, who may have lost income, to use payday loans to try and get by.
"But the interest should not be the way it is," she said.
In B.C., payday lenders can charge up to $15 for every $100 borrowed. Over one year, that can amount to 400 per cent of the original loan paid in interest.
'They're after you'
Linda Tetlock, a volunteer with ACORN, an anti-poverty group active across Canada, said she wants the rules around payday loans in Canada to change.
She says the loans end up hurting marginalized people.
"When you have these payday loans, they're after you," she said.
"If you have a paycheque coming in, and you're on disability and you don't have very much, and they're demanding payment and you don't have it to pay? That causes a lot of stress."
The Member of Parliament for New Westminster is trying to change the way payday loans are regulated in Canada.
This week, Peter Julian had the first reading of his private members Bill C-274 that, if passed, would amend the Criminal Code to lower the maximum legal interest rate from 60 per cent to 30 per cent. The bill would also close provincial loopholes that let payday lenders charge even higher rates.
"There is a huge exemption in the Criminal Code that allows payday lenders to charge 200, 300, 400, 500 per cent," he said.
"A person who has taken out a loan of a few hundred dollars for an emergency or to put food on the table is rapidly spiraling into a massive debt of thousands that they can never pay up."
Predatory <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/payday?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#payday</a> loans w interest rates of over 60% or even 500% w hidden fees are totally unacceptable. With <a href="https://twitter.com/ACORNCanada?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ACORNCanada</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/NDP?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NDP</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/alexboulerice?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@alexboulerice</a> I’m calling on the Trudeau govt to include my Bill <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/C274?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#C274</a> in the next federal <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Budget2021?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Budget2021</a> to stop this practice immediately. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cdnpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#cdnpoli</a> <a href="https://t.co/EuZ9cUvTRK">pic.twitter.com/EuZ9cUvTRK</a>—@MPJulian
The Canadian Consumer Finance Association represents close to 1,000 businesses across Canada that provide payday loans and other similar services to close to two million Canadians each year.
In a statement to CBC News, it says its members are highly regulated and licensed under provincial legislation across Canada.
It also argues that many members provide payday loans at a risk as the loans can be costly to offer.
The association's mandate is to work with Ottawa and the provinces to develop rules that protect consumers but also allow for "a viable industry to continue," it says on its website.
With files from Alex Midgal