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Health & Science

Google To Ban Payday Loan Ads

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Google did something today that has made a lot of advocates for the poor very happy. The company announced in a blog post that it will stop permitting ads from payday loan companies. NPR's Laura Sydell reports.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: Payday loans target people who are shot on cash, and typically they're due on the day the borrower gets paid. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but the companies charge such high interest rates that they can be extremely difficult to pay off. Alvaro Bedoya, the director of the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown University Law School says the interest rates go as high as 1000 percent.

ALVARO BEDOYA: And to put that in context, Al Capone is said to have charged somewhere between 100 and 250 percent.

SYDELL: And Capone was a notorious criminal. In a blog post, a Google official wrote that the company will no longer allow ads for loans where repayment is due within 60 days and for loans with rates higher than 36 percent. Georgetown's Bedoya says this won't close down all these lenders, but search is often a point of entry for desperate people.

BEDOYA: So for example, if you go broke and you do a search for, need money for rent or, need money for heating bill, payday lenders have paid to have their ads show up at the top of these search results.

SYDELL: The payday lending industry itself is calling Google's ban on these ads unfair. A trade group, the Community Financial Services Association of America, said Google and others are making a blanket assessment about the payday lending industry rather than discerning the good actors from the bad. The industry is also critical of Facebook, which has a ban on payday loan ads. But Bedoya and other advocates for the poor are hoping that Microsoft's Bing and Yahoo Search will also ban the ads. Laura Sydell, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.