OLYMPIA—Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson today urged the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to strengthen federal Military Lending Act (MLA) regulations to better protect servicemembers from abusive lending practices.
“As someone who comes from a family of veterans, I am proud the Office of Attorney General supports and stands up for our military personnel and their families,” said Ferguson. “Strengthening the protections under the Military Lending Act will help make sure those who defend our country are guarded against predatory lenders.”
Ferguson joined 12 other Attorneys General in submitting a bi-partisan letter to the DoD in response to proposed new rules under the MLA. In 2007, Congress passed the MLA, establishing a 36 percent cap on interest and fees on certain consumer credit transactions with servicemembers. However, the DoD’s regulations currently limit the protections to three narrow definitions of consumer credit:
- Payday loans (only covering loans of up to $2,000, for a term of 91 days or less);
- Vehicle title loans: (only covering loans for a term of 181 days or less); and
- Tax refund anticipation loans.
To evade MLA regulations, some predatory lenders have changed practices to structure their high-cost loans fall outside the narrow MLA definitions of consumer credit. For example, lenders offer loans starting at $2,001 or require a minimum repayment period of 92 days, allowing them to avoid the 36 percent interest rate cap.
Ferguson and other Attorneys General stressed that the protections in the MLA should apply uniformly to all consumer credit loans. They also raised concern about a lack of coverage for any open-ended or revolving payday loans.
Ferguson joined Attorneys General from the following states in the letter to DoD: California, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Montana, North Carolina, Nevada, New York, Oregon, and Tennessee.
A key priority for the AGO is to safeguard all consumers, including veterans and military personnel, from fraud and unfair business practices. Unfortunately, veterans and military personnel are often specifically targeted by scam artists and unscrupulous businesses.
There are many reasons why service members, veterans and their families can make attractive targets. Military pay and veterans benefits are a steady source of income. Scammers know that service members are held to a high standard for debt repayment, which may make them hesitant to challenge the debt, question shady business practices, or seek assistance. Many service members move frequently, so they don’t always know which businesses to avoid in a new community.
For more information on veteran and military personnel consumer protection, visit: http://www.atg.wa.gov/VeteranMilitaryResources/ConsumerProtections.aspx
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Attorney General Bob Ferguson is working hard to protect consumers and seniors against fraud, keep our communities safe, protect our environment and stand up for our veterans. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Alison Dempsey-Hall, Dep. Communications Director, Attorney General Bob Ferguson, (206) 641-1335