Massachusetts Warns Payday Loan Debt Collectors

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On April 8, the Massachusetts Division of Banks sent a letter to state-licensed debt collectors advising them that it is illegal to collect on consumer loans that violate the Massachusetts small loan statute. The action follows a similar step taken by the New York Department of Financial Services last month. The Massachusetts letter reminds debt collectors that entities engaged, directly or indirectly, in the business of making loans of $6,000 or less with interest and expenses paid on the loan in excess of 12% annually must be licensed with the Division of Banks. Further, state law limits the annual interest rate that can be charged on small loans to 23%. The letter advises debt collectors that (i) loans made in violation of these rules are void, (ii) it is illegal to attempt to collect on debt that is void or unenforceable, and (iii) it is the responsibility of licensed debt collectors to ensure that they do not facilitate the creation or collection of illegal loans. The letter urges licensed debt collectors to review all client contracts and debtor accounts to ensure that all consumer, compliance, and reputational risks are appropriately evaluated and addressed on an ongoing basis.