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Interest rate limits needed to protect borrowers

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By Bill Soules

Getting a small loan license in New Mexico is a cinch. Just pay a $1,500 fee to the Department of Regulation and Licensing, show you have $30,000 in capital and a reasonably clean criminal record and you are in. There were 656 small loan operators in the state at the close of 2013.
The powers that come with a license are astonishing. Outside of a very narrow product area technically defined as Payday Loans, licensees can charge any interest rate over any period of time with almost any loan terms they choose on amounts of $2,500 or less. Small lenders routinely burden unsophisticated borrowers with interest rates of anywhere between 200-600 percent and sometimes more than 1,000 percent. In the process, they often point to the license on their wall claiming their products are “state approved.” That license is, in fact, their license to steal.


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