After an attack on payday lenders yesterday was narrowly defeated, S.C. Senate leaders opposed to the ban bowed to sharp concessions that would preserve the industry without the kind of bans in North Carolina and Georgia.

Under the bill adopted by voice vote Tuesday, borrowers can hold only one loan at a time — and must wait at least seven days between paying off one loan and taking out another with any lender.

The provisions are designed to break patterns of serial lending that critics say trap borrowers in a cycle of debt by using a new payday loan to pay off an old one.

Current law allows a company to loan as much as $600 at a time to a borrower and charge $90 in fees for the two-week loan, the equivalent of a 390 percent annual interest rate. There is no monitoring by the state to prevent borrowers from taking out multiple $600 loans with other companies, and no waiting periods between loans.

Individuals with gross income of $2,000 or less in a two-week period can borrow no more than 25 percent of their gross income for a two-week loan. Loans for those earning more are capped at $500.

The industry seems to like its chances with the House. House Speaker Bobby Harrell said last month that he doesn’t support a ban, but does support limitations on payday lending.

Jamie Fulmer, spokesman for Advance America, a Spartanburg-based company that is the nation’s largest payday lender, said the bill was better than a ban, but requiring seven days between loans “seems excessive.”

Fulmer was more pointed in her comments to the Associated Press.

“What we can’t support are efforts to regulate this product out of business.”

The industry can swallow caps on borrowing, because it’s not really a concession if they’re just handing out the same amount of money in smaller doses. But a seven day waiting limit means you can’t pay off a loan with another loan. Thus actually getting to the problem.

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