SACRAMENTO, CA – Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry’s (D – Winters) bill, AB 1636, was signed into law by Governor Brown last week. This critical consumer protection measure will increase accountability of “Payday Lenders” in California through strengthening the tools Department of Business Oversight (DBO) uses to oversee, regulate, and review lenders’ reports.
“These businesses can provide low-income Californians under a financial pinch with an option for a temporary fix when in need of money, but this type of loan can quickly snowball into a family financial crisis,” said Aguiar-Curry. “Our government can only root out bad players by having access to information that will highlight predatory business practices. AB 1636 will improve consumer protection by providing more public insight into the practices of payday lenders and their borrowers.”
Under existing law, payday lenders are required to submit an annual report to the DBO on certain information regarding their business in the past year. In addition, the Department conducts a voluntary survey to supplement that data. However, the reports are exempt from the Public Records Act, and no enforcement authority exists to compel responses to the survey. As a result, consumers, financial experts, and legislators cannot review the information. AB 1636 makes payday lenders’ reports public, and expands DBO’s authority to require and expand companies’ reporting.
“I want to thank Governor Brown and the DBO for their support. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the businesses most likely to voluntarily respond to regulators’ requests are those least likely to prey on the most vulnerable customers,” said Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry. “It’s time we made all payday lenders subject to the same kind of public scrutiny and data gathering as other lenders.”
According to Suzanne Martindale, Senior Attorney at the Consumers Union, “Payday loans are widely known to be expensive, risky financial products. Better public data on the industry will help promote responsible lending here in California. Consumers Union is pleased to see that the Governor signed this commonsense oversight measure into law.”
In addition to increasing public transparency in lenders’ annual reports, Aguiar-Curry’s bill also authorizes DBO to issue financial penalties on financial lenders that do not submit their annual reports on time. Currently, the Commissioner’s only enforcement tool is the ability to revoke the license of a noncompliant lender. By authorizing reasonable late fees as an option, the DBO now has an additional tool to encourage compliance that is not as extreme as revoking a license.
“California’s payday lenders are required to report a wealth of insightful data every year to the Department of Business Oversight. But the individual company reports are confidential and exempt from public disclosure. There is no public policy justification for that,” said DBO Commissioner Jan Lynn Owen. “This bill increases transparency by making those reports public documents. It also gives the department greater discretion to require payday lenders to report additional information about consumer trends and business practices.”
Any person that offers financial loans or products in California must be licensed by the DBO. Through increasing the tools in the Commissioner’s toolbox, this bill takes a significant step towards ensuring that consumers are not taken advantage of. Governor Brown’s signature makes AB 1636 Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry’s sixth bill signed into law this year.
Aguiar-Curry represents the 4th Assembly District, which includes all of Lake and Napa Counties, parts of Colusa, Solano and Sonoma Counties, and all of Yolo County except West Sacramento.