COLUMBUS, Ohio (WTVN) -- U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown wants to see new federal protections against predatory lending in the wake of an Ohio Supreme Court ruling last week.
The court ruled an Elyria man's two-week loan imposing more than 235-percent interest was legal under state mortgage-lending laws, allowing the lender to circumvent a payday-lending crackdown.
"Payday lenders can't continue to be one step ahead of the sheriff. That's how they've operated," said Brown.
The Democrat said he's written to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau chief Richard Cordray asking his agency to take action.
At a Monday news conference, Maya Reed talked about the tactics used by her former employer, a short-term lending agency.
"Essentially my job was to get people in debt and keep them there," she said.
She said that when customers didn't pay their loans back she would harass them.
"Payday loans are marketed as a solution to financial emergencies, something that can be used in a time of need, but they're not used like that at all," she said.
Brown said there are now more payday loan offices in America than there are McDonald's and Starbucks locations combined. More than 12 million Americans use payday loans each year, and small-dollar lending has become an $80-billion per year business.
The lenders say they're providing a needed financial service.
"People need and want our products or they wouldn't be using them," said Patrick Crowley, spokesman with the Ohio Consumer Lenders Association.
He says they work with people who are having a tough time repaying their loan. He rejected the claim that the industry is employing predatory lending tactics saying that 90 percent of customers are happy with the service they're getting.
"There are laws on the books that allow for the products that we offer. We're following every law and regulation that governs our industry," he said.
Opponents of the industry say the fact that most of these lenders have setup shop in low-income neighborhoods is proof they're targeting low-income Ohioans.
"Our stores are in the places where people need them and want them," Crowley said.