Christopher Lewis Peterson
University of Utah – S.J. Quinney College of Law
Over a hundred different local governments around the country have adopted ordinances restricting high cost, small loans. This trend reflects the solid majority of the American public that opposes the legality of triple-digit interest rate loans and the long historical tradition of treating “payday” and car-title lending as a serious civil offense or even a crime. Nevertheless, perhaps owing to limits on municipal power, local payday lending law has generated relatively little scholarship or commentary. This paper describes the existing local law governing small, high-cost consumer loans and proposes a more emphatic ordinance that better reflects the policy judgment of many local leaders and a solid majority of the America public. In particular, this paper (1) introduces the historical background of regulation of usurious lending; (2) analyzes the recent growth in local ordinances attempting to control small, high-cost loans; (3) discusses the evidence of market failure in the small high-cost loan market; (4) proposes a model ordinance requiring that lenders who offer loans in excess of 45% per annum display a cautionary message that reads: “Warning: Predatory Lender,” on their street, storefront, and other on-premises signs; and, (5) argues that the well-established municipal authority over signage provides a solid statutory and constitutional basis for such a law. An appendix with a model ordinance suitable for adoption by most local governments follows.
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