Today Google announced it will ban ads for payday loans and other predatory lending products. Payday loans are short-term, high-interest loans that create and perpetuate cycles of debt among low income communities. With its new policy, Google is taking a big step to curtail the harmful impact of predatory lending schemes on its users. Low income people — the primary targets of economically exploitative ploys both online and off — stand to benefit most from the policy change.
Google’s policy change is the culmination of months of discussion and a lengthy collaboration between the company and a coalition of groups that has been working to ban payday loan ads. Other products for which Google has banned advertisements include “dangerous products and services,” a category that includes guns, tobacco, explosives, and recreational drugs.
A recent report by Upturn noted that payday loan search ads are common online, even in states where payday lending is illegal, and can sell for more than $10 per click. Google’s change reflects the growing national consensus that payday loans are harmful. It also comes as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau prepares to issue regulations on these products.
As a member of the coalition, Open MIC joined The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Americans for Financial Reform, the Center for Responsible Lending, the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law, Upturn, National Council of La Raza, NAACP, Common Sense Kids Action, National Hispanic Media Coalition, and ColorofChange.org.
“Consumer trust is critical for success in the digital world, which is why online businesses need to demonstrate that they’re capable of protecting all users, including low income communities that are the targets of online predatory lending schemes," said Michael Connor, Executive Director of Open MIC. "By banning ads for payday loans Google is highlighting how corporate accountability can be a positive for the company, its shareholders and society."
Sustainable investment organizations that have been involved in previous initiatives to curb payday lending also welcomed Google's action.
“Google’s policy changes reflect the overlap of smart risk management, social responsibility, and enlightened self-interest,” said Jonas Kron, Senior Vice President at Trillium Asset Management. “As lower and middle class Americans have suffered from income stagnation and increasing financial stress, it is important that companies take steps to help address the problem and become part of the solutions to our social and economic challenges."
Sonia Kowal, President of Zevin Asset Management LLC, said: “Simply put, predatory lending is bad business. We welcome Google’s policy changes.”
Rev. Séamus P. Finn OMI, board chair of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, said: “This is a significant step by Google and one which should be considered as exemplary for others in the mass media and in the online communications business. Payday and predatory lending takes advantage of too many people when they are under pressure and have few good borrowing options.”