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Payday lender settles nearly 2 decade old class action suit

TEMPLE TERRACE, Fla. (WFLA) - Check your mailbox. You could be one of thousands of people getting money from a class action settlement involving a payday loan company.

The settlement puts an end to nearly 2 decades of fighting over interest rates of nearly 400 percent.

Payday lenders, doing business as "Advance America," agreed to pay out $4.3 million.

With a baby on the way and bills piling up, Stephanie Marshall turned to payday lender Advance America, 20 years ago, to make ends meet.

“Every other Saturday I went to one place to the next, writing a new check, paying the fees, rolling it over,” said Marshall.

She found herself in a cycle of debt, with three payday loans and no hope of paying them off.

“It was like a rat. I was running around in circles chasing my tail,” she said.

She has advice for those considering such a loan.

“Don't. I look there at your camera, say don't. Don't do it,” said Marshall, as she looked directly at a News Channel 8 camera.

“You need to look at exactly what you're signing up for,” said Attorney, Jesse Hoyer. Her firm is one of the companies that handled the litigation.

She warns "mandatory arbitration agreements" in payday contracts prevent customers from suing in a court of law.

“It's something that's actually very dangerous for consumers because it takes away a lot of your rights,” said Hoyer.

Advance America spokesman Jamie Fulmer said the settlement does not involve any findings of wrongdoing or admission of liability. He said Florida consumers are best served by having reliable access to regulated short-term, small dollar credit and related financial services.

Stephanie Marshall’s payout IS $1,521.90.

When asked, “What was you're reaction?” she responded: “Thank you Jesus.”

Settlement payments range from a few hundred to $3,000.

That sounds good, but more than 100,000 customers won't get a dime, because of that "mandatory arbitration" clause.

Jamie Fulmer, Senior Vice President of Advance America, Cash Advance Centers, Inc. issued this statement to News Channel 8:

Advance America has agreed to settle two lawsuits in Florida that resolve claims connected to loans made there from 1997-2001. The settlement includes a fund from which eligible claimants can be reimbursed. The settlement does not involve any findings of wrongdoing or admission of liability, and Advance America continues to believe Florida consumers are best served by having reliable access to regulated, short-term, small-dollar credit and related financial services. This agreement was a deliberate business decision, which provides closure on the matters that have been pending in Florida for nearly two decades and eliminates ongoing costly legal expenses


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