Cash advance store ordered to pay refunds for overcharging clients

Instaloan and Cash Advance both have branches in Terrace, BC

A CASH advance company with outlets in Terrace has been ordered to refund money to customers who were overcharged and to stop charging illegal fees.

The order comes from Consumer Protection BC against Cash Store Financial Inc., the parent company of pay day lenders Instaloan and Cash Store.

The order first came through in March 2012 but the company did not follow through so a supplemental compliance order was put out November 30, saying the refund period would start December 11 and repayments were expected to start at least by February 2013, according to Manjit Bains, vice-president of Consumer Protection BC.

Cash Store Financial chose to ignore a 2009 law regarding fees and other charges, said Bains.

They were charging for cash cards and more than the maximum legal amount of $23 for every $100 they were lending,” she said.

Charging for a cash card, which is like a credit card where the loaned money goes onto instead of having cash to carry around, is against the new law, she explained.

The company had 90 days to repay but chose not to, so a supplemental order was made to provide information on how to go about repaying the money, she said.

We’re remaining optimistic they will comply with the law and our order,” said Bains about Cash Store Financial.

The provincial government gave Consumer Protection BC enforcement powers that include working with businesses to ensure compliance, issuing compliance orders, charging fees for violations, taking a business to court for non-compliance and pulling business licences.

Cash Store Financial did pay the violation fees of $27,500 for administrative penalty and after new issues were discovered, paid another $6,200, also in administrative penalties, she said.

Cash Store Financial estimated that of its 96 stores in BC that it owes customers about $1 million as it has issued 68,000 loans since November 2009, said Bains.

Keep in mind some people have multiple loans so we think the average amount somebody is owed ranges from $7 to $18 but if it’s multiple loans, it starts to add up,” said Bains.

Cash Store Financial is supposed to send out a package to its customers with a claim form and advertise the refunds with the goal to get as many people reimbursed as possible, said Bains.

That’s why the refund period has begun but the expectation for payouts isn’t until February, she explained.

We’re optimistic the first cheque will be cut in February,” she said.

And it could take time to contact customers who might have moved so another mailout package might be needed.

A fail safe is that if Cash Store Financial doesn’t contact a customer successfully, it cannot keep the money.

The money will be transferred to Consumer Protection BC, which will hold the money for six years in case the rightful person comes forward for it.

Any money left over after the six years will go into its consumer advancement fund which is used for consumer education, said Bains.

If consumers receive any inconsistent information, they should contact Consumer Protection BC.

It’s important for consumers to understand what their rights are under the law and what businesses can or cannot charge to protect themselves, said Bains.