Americans for Tax Reform joined a group of free-market groups and signed a coalition letter encouraging Congress to oppose interest rate caps on consumer borrowing. By restricting interest rates on financial products, Congress will limit consumer choices among affordable lending services.
Installing a cap on interest rates will price consumers out of the market, particularly many of the unbanked and underbanked who need access to affordable financial products the most. An interest rate cap on lending products will not reduce borrower demand and instead will force lenders to increase borrower eligibility requirements. Increased eligibility requirements could adversely discriminate against borrowers who lack even a basic credit score.
Many low-income borrowers who may not have access to traditional banking services and or credit history will not get quick credit from any legal lender. This has been demonstrated by economists at the Mercatus Center that shows government interest rate caps exclude borrowers from obtaining affordable lending products and does little to diminish the customers need for these products. Those borrowers will continue to seek credit through alternative forms of credit, which could come from illegal lenders known as "loan sharks.” Loan sharks operate outside regulatory supervision and have been known to use tactics like blackmail, coercion, and violence when borrowers fail to meet their aggressive repayment plans.
Legislation at the federal and state level should be conscious of whose lead they are following. Many of these proposals may resemble the legislation put forth by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-N.Y.) in 2019.
Several states have tried an interest rate cap in the past with low-income households suffering the most. Arkansas, a state with a constitutionally mandated interest rate cap, has extremely low loan volume. Many of its residents drive out of state to acquire installment loans that offer increased lending options with interest rates appropriately tailored to service those borrowers. After Georgia and North Carolina implemented caps on interest rates, insufficient funds notifications and bounced check fees surged, harming lower-income consumers who may find it more challenging to afford these fees.
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker (D-IL) signed an interest rate cap into law last month even after lender organizations, including the Illinois Small Loan Association, warned that the interest rate ceiling effectively ends the short-term loan industry. Neighboring Indiana and Wisconsin have no interest rate cap and can expect to see an influx of new borrowers crossing state lines for loans as did the states like Oklahoma, Missouri, and Tennessee surrounding Arkansas.
Consumers are best able to make appropriate financial choices that meet their needs when they have more choices in credit markets. Americans for Tax Reform and the undersigned organizations strongly urge Congress to oppose regulation limiting credit markets and installing a ceiling on interest rates.
Click here to review the letter.