Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Lenders, Legislators endorse obscene phone calls, privacy violations and violence

As expected, HB 1223 & HB 1224, which would have placed some restrictions on the antics of predatory "payday" and "title" lenders in South Dakota, were killed in the House Commerce and Energy Committee.

Lined up to speak against the bills were:

Michael DeMersseman, Dollar Loan Center
Dan Henderson, Money Central Incorporated
Brett Koenecke, Commercial Financial Services Association
Mark Aguilar, Consumer Lending Alliance
Doug Abraham, SD Bankers Association

and then there was the roaring silence of South Dakota's mainstream news media, which reported on all kinds of other legislation, some of it empty sybolism, rather than the actual rip-off and intimidation of citizens.

Now, it is to be expected that lenders would line up against perceived threats to their profits, and that's democracy at work. But what's worth noting is that a substitute version of HB 1224 was offered, which read

No person engaging in the business of payday loans or title loans may engage in any conduct the natural consequence of which is to harass, oppress, or abuse any person in connection with the collection of a debt. Such conduct includes:

(1) The use or threat of use of violence or other criminal means to harm the physical person, reputation, or property of any person;

(2) The use of obscene or profane language or language the natural consequence of which is to abuse the hearer or reader;

(3) The publication of a list of consumers who allegedly refuse to pay debts, except to a consumer reporting agency;

(4) The advertisement for sale of any debt to coerce payment of the debt;

(5) Causing a telephone to ring or engaging any person in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number;

(6) The placement of telephone calls without meaningful disclosure of the caller's identity.

This was defeated by a unanimous voice vote of the committee.

Props to those who took a stand for the people of South Dakota by sponsoring and supporting the legislation:

Representative Steve Hickey
Senator Joni Cutler
Greg Boris, South Dakota Voices for Children
Betty Oldenkamp, Lutheran Social Services

The defeat of the bills is not the end of the story, except for this legislative session. There is much to do, in and out of the Statehouse, when it comes to shining light on some very dark places. Stay tuned.

via Rep. Hickey's fb wall:

Lenders implicated in military stress suicides.

Dollar Loan Center founder caught in prostitution sting.

& via Madville Times (link at right):

The U.S. Military is cracking down on payday and other predatory lenders around bases.

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