Predatory Loans for Puppies in New Jersey Must be Stopped

TAB Bank is helping EasyPay Finance avoid New Jersey laws that prohibit 189% APR loans 

February 18, 2022

Newark– In advance of National Love Your Pet Day on February 20, New Jersey Citizen Action (NJCA) is teaming up with national consumer and animal welfare advocates to launch a campaign to stop TAB Bank from helping a predatory lender circumvent New Jersey law and making predatory puppy loans. Many of these loans are used for purchases at puppy mills—inhumane, high-volume dog breeding facilities that churn out puppies for profit, ignoring the needs of the pups and their parents. 

At pet stores across the country, Transportation Alliance Bank (TAB Bank) is helping predatory lender EasyPay Finance avoid state interest rate laws and make pet loans at 130% to 189% APR (annual percentage rate) – rates that are illegal in most states for EasyPay and other lenders that are not banks. In New Jersey the legal rate on a $2,000, two-year consumer installment loan, including all fees, is 30 percent APR. To see which stores in New Jersey offer EasyPay loans, go to https://findastore.easypayfinance.com/. 

“Predatory lenders like EasyPay are always searching for ways to circumvent New Jersey consumer protection laws which protect residents from exorbitant interest rates and destructive debt cycles,” said NJCA Financial Justice Program Director Beverly Brown Ruggia. “We urge Transportation Alliance Bank to stop helping EasyPay exploit our most vulnerable state residents and the animals being used to lure those residents into debt traps. We call on the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to stop TAB Bank from facilitating this avoidance of New Jersey law.” 

The consumer and animal welfare advocacy campaign calling for TAB Bank to stop helping EasyPay avoid New Jersey law and for the FDIC to take action includes: 

  • A new report describing how TAB Bank helps EasyPay make predatory puppy loans; 
  • A February 17 social media storm – using #PredatoryPuppyLoans, #PredatoryTABbank and #LoveYourPetDay; 
  • An effort to collect stories from people impacted by predatory puppy loans; 
  • A focus on how predatory financing promotes the sale of puppy mill dogs
  • A petition to urge the FDIC to stop TAB Bank and other banks from helping predatory lenders disguise their loans as bank loans that are exempt from state interest rate limits; 
  • Work to broaden support for the Veterans and Consumers Fair Credit Act, which would set a national 36% interest rate cap; 
  • And more to come … 

EasyPay offers financing for purchases at pet stores, auto mechanics, furniture stores and other retailers at rates ranging from 130% to 189% APR. In 32 states where those rates are illegal, it processes its loans through TAB Bank, headquartered in Utah, to disguise the loans as bank loans that are exempt from state rate caps. In states that allow these high rates, EasyPay extends financing directly.  

Hundreds of consumers have submitted complaints about EasyPay (owned by the company Duvera Billing Services) to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Better Business Bureau, and Ripoff Report. They describe: sky-high interest rates with payments that go mostly to interest; high rates even for military service members; deceptive interest-free promotions; debt collectors hounding people for money; and credit reporting abuses. For example: 

  • A New Jersey consumer went into a pet store “in hopes of purchasing a cocker spaniel….I found that I am being charged 151.97 % which is five times the legal +limit of 30 % that can be charged in New Jersey.” 
  • A military consumer in Florida described “the egregious interest rate” of 130% APR for a dog. 
  • Another person complained that a pet store would not take back a dog that was sick and eventually died: “I had no choice [but] to continue to pay them [so] as not to ruin my credit history, all while trying to save a dog paying thousands [of] dollars in veterinarian bills…. It tore my family apart losing the dog. My children were especially devastated…. I only borrowed [$2200.00] and it is reporting I owe [$5500.00] on my credit report due to interest.”  
     

These and other stories are described in a new report on Predatory Puppy Loans by TAB Bank and EasyPay Finance. 

Last week, more than a dozen advocacy organizations called for the new leadership at the FDIC to stop banks from fronting for predatory lenders through these schemes. 

Background on puppy mills 

According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), a puppy mill is an inhumane, high-volume dog breeding facility that churns out puppies for profit, ignoring the needs of the pups and their parents. Puppies from mills are often sick and unsocialized. Breeding dogs are often confined to small, filthy cages for their entire lives, bred repeatedly until their bodies wear out. Puppy mills keep this cruelty hidden by selling through third parties like pet stores. Pet stores often push lending options on their customers only to hand them over to third party lenders like EasyPay that charge high interest rates. The HSUS recommends that those looking to add a new pet to their family avoid pet stores and instead adopt from a shelter or rescue or seek out a responsible breeder that only sells directly to the public. For more information about puppy mills, including B-roll of puppy mills or pet stores, or to interview an HSUS representative, please contact Kirsten Peek at kpeek@humanesociety.org.