Poor Consumer(s) Law: The Case of High-Cost Credit and Payday Loans
Legal Applications of Marketing Theory, Jacob Gersen & Joel Steckel, eds., Cambridge University Press (2019, Forthcoming)
36 Pages Posted: 21 Aug 2018 Last revised: 15 May 2019
Date Written: August 20, 2018
Consumers in general, and poor consumers in particular, often make counter-productive financial decisions that undermine their welfare. One key example is that poor people frequently use high-cost credit and loans with onerous interest rates. They are also disproportionally engaged in other types of sub-optimal borrowing, such as rent-to-own transactions and insufficient savings for the future. Although lenders and service providers are obliged to disclose interest rates and other key information in a clear and conspicuous way, disclosures have been at best only partly effective to prevent exploitation and protect consumers. This chapter seeks to examine how consumer law can, and at times should, respond to this reality. While focusing on borrowing practices, we begin by pointing to the main behavioral patterns that impact financial decision making. We first address biases that are relevant to all consumers: over-optimism, the present bias, and the behavioral economics of information. We then discuss the psychology of poverty and scarcity, which demonstrates that the state of poverty depletes cognitive resources and undermines the consumer’s capacity to overcome temptations, choose the uneasy paths and exercise long-term planning. Against this background, we discuss a variety of policy recommendations. We focus on protections that are better-suited to treat the root causes that lead poor people to make dubious financial decisions. We conclude by succinctly noting some of the challenges entailed in our recommendations and discussing ways to expand our proposed framework.
Keywords: Poor consumer, responsible lending, payday loans, consumer credit, credit contracts, consumer behavior, high cost credit, scarcity
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