Consumer Protection Bills Lauded

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Byline: Serena Markstrom The Register-Guard

CORRECTION (ran 4/16/2005): A story on Page D1 of Friday's paper about the Oregon Senate Commerce Committee public hearing misquoted Cory Streisinger from the state Department of Business Services. She said of a bill that would limit interest rates on payday loans: "We are not looking to drive this industry out of business, but we do think it's an area that can take advantage of consumers."

The Oregon Senate Commerce Committee heard overwhelming support Thursday night for a handful of bills aimed at giving consumers greater protection against identity theft and predatory lending.

About 30 people gathered to testify at Eugene City Hall for public hearings on four bills that would increase regulations on the payday loan industry, decrease access to social security numbers, require tax refund lenders to register with a state agency, and prohibit insurance companies from using a consumer's credit history against them. Many people attending also testified at a similar hearing last month in Salem.

Among the bills the Commerce Committee, chaired by Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, has to consider is Senate Bill 545, which would limit maximum interest rate on payday loans to 15 percent on the original loan or 10 percent for rollovers. It also would limit loans to $1,000 or 25 percent of the person's gross monthly income, whichever is smaller. That proposed bill drew the most testimony from those present.

"These loans are important to many people, but they are expensive," said Cory Streisinger from the state Department of Business Services. She noted that many payday lenders already have practices similar to those the bill proposes, but she supports the bill to bring the others in line. …