London payday lenders targeted by protesters demanding change

Local members of a national group representing low- and middle-income families protested against payday loans and check-cashing providers on Thursday.

ACORN Canada members conducted an awareness campaign to put pressure on high-yield moneylenders.

The small 5pm protest was one of many across Canada timed to raise awareness for hundreds of thousands struggling across the country to feed themselves and their families.

London-based ACORN Canada member Claire Wittnebel says they are being taken advantage of by so-called “predatory lenders.”

“People don’t come here [payday loan locations] because they want, they come here, because they have no other options. We would like more options to be available. If that’s the only option, we want it to be more controlled and less predatory,” she said.

Members say a federal Liberal pledge to rule high-yield lenders has yet to be fulfilled. They say this must be a priority, especially when pandemic subsidies end.

ACORN says its own survey found that more than 83 percent of people seeking payday and installment loans do so only to meet basic needs, including food and rent.

Londoner Betty Morrison, who has a disability, says she is among them.Londoner Betty Morrison tells CTV News she’s struggling to pay off a payday loan on March 31, 2022. (Sean Irvine / CTV News)“It’s an endless cycle. One always borrows one to pay for another to borrow another. And you get to a point where you just don’t know where to turn,” she says.

It’s the same story for a mother who has been trying to pay off a $300 loan for two years. However, Dezeare Sturgeon says she can only cover the $40 monthly interest.

“I will never be free. I just can’t afford it. I’ll be stuck in it forever,” she explains.

ACORN says payday loans are only part of the problem. The group denies installment loans, which typically start at $1,500 and often carry an interest rate of 60 percent.

MPs are asking the federal government to force high-yield lenders to reduce the number to no more than 30 percent, including fees.

They also want more credit options for those facing financial uncertainty, including Morrison.

She says she is on the verge of losing her apartment as her landlord is selling to take advantage of the booming real estate market.

While Morrison struggles with payday loans to get groceries, she can’t find affordable housing.

“Rejected by landlords, rejected by everyone because of my income. It’s just crazy,” she says.

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