SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Jazmine was laid off during the pandemic and needed money to pay her rent. So she got a loan from a pawn shop using her cameras and Macbook Air as collateral.
“Not only did they give me $800, but they also low balled me because I had to come back two days later, and I got another loan, both of them high APR rates of 150%, which I had no knowledge of, they never broke down what would happen,” Jazmine, a social media influencer and digital content creator, said.
In 2021, the state passed the Predatory Loan Prevention Act (PLPA), which caps the interest rate on consumer loans at 36%. But the law doesn’t apply to pawn shops.
After the PLPA passed, pawn brokers asked the courts for an injunction so that the law wouldn’t apply to them and they received one.
“I was paying monthly on my items thinking that I would eventually get my things back, but it quickly turned into me just paying $200 a month and my items are still in the pawn shop, plus they got the money that I was paying every single month,” Jazmine said.
Now, lawmakers are considering legislation to close the loophole and it’s what brought Jazmine to the State Capitol.
“I’m also advocating that these pawn brokers are not able to have such a high APR rate that’s in the triple digits,” Jazmine said.
Her story is not an isolated one. Lunden Harris, a military member, volunteered for an experiment run by an economic institute in Chicago.
Pawn shops are accused of giving high interest rates to active duty service members.
Despite the injunction, federal law is supposed to cap interest rates for members of the military and every store is supposed to ask customers if they serve.
Harris said out of the three pawn shops he went to, only one of them asked if he was an active duty military member.
“The first place, they did indeed ask if I was active duty military,” Harris said. “They had me sign even a slip of paper stating I was and then they still charged the exorbitant rate of 243%.”
After this experience, Harris said it has opened his eyes to the problem.
“It’s easy for somebody to say, ‘They’re doing us an injustice,’ but for me to actually go through it myself and see it, it really helped a lot [to] clear my mind,” Harris said.