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Montana has trouble stopping online lenders

Dec 22, 2011 Todd Milner

Last November, voters in Montana "overwhelmingly" approved ballot initiative I-164, which effectively capped short term lending interest rates in the state at 36 percent, KPAX-TV reported. At the time, there were as many as 150 lenders doing business in Montana. That number has since dwindled to 18, curtailing the ability of many residents to receive short-term loans, according to the Missoulian. "I think the bigger effect has been on our customers," store owner Bernie Harrington told the news source. "We still have customers calling and coming in every day asking for some help and we don't have the ability to give it to them. Customers have turned to internet lending where it's $45 for a $100 loan." While internet lending is illegal in the state, many online short term loan sites are not licensed in Montana, allowing them to circumvent I-164. This makes it difficult to track down and charge companies with any wrongdoing, as the websites offer toll-free phone numbers that connect potential loanees with out-of-state or sometimes out-of-country services. However, with no regulatory body in place interest rates can reach as high as 1,000 percent.