Payday loan industry fighting back against attacks

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - By Doug Walker – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - At Cash Inc. in Orange Grove, homey touches are prominently displayed on the walls and desks. Also prominently displayed are the interest rates and fees the business charges. It's not as high as you might think; An average of 18 percent for a 30 day loan.

Ricky Easterling has been doing business off and on with Cash Inc. for 10 years. Friday was one of those days.

"Being paid once a month, things come up and I just needed some extra money, and it's quicker, faster and I didn't want to use my credit card."

Despite interest rates that can technically reach into the triple digits over the course of a year in other states, that can't happen in Mississippi because it's against the law. That makes Easterling comfortable.

"It's not a predatory type situation as it's being painted," Easterling said. "There are people from all walks of life that I know that use this service."

Dan Robinson founded Cash Inc. in Mississippi and now owns 28 stores in the state. He feels the industry has become a political target.

"The center for responsible lending out of Washington D.C. is targeting Mississippi for the 2011 legislative session and they are working through the Mississippi Center for Justice here against our industry."

The people who visit these payday loan stores come from all walks of life, and they have all sorts of reasons for borrowing money, but one underlying theme can be found.  It's fast, it's convenient, and it's easy, according to Robinson.

"Once they put in an application with us and we know them as a customer, they can come in at anytime and cash a check with us so it's very convenient."

Payday loan officials say if new laws are passed restricting the amount of interest the companies can charge, similar to traditional banks, which are capped at 36 percent, the companies will simply go out of business. That will put more than 2,500 people who work in the industry out of a job in Mississippi alone.

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