Georgia laws protect consumers from abusive or overreaching debt collection tactics. One of those laws, the Georgia Installment Loan Act, applies to installment loans that are $3,000 or less, including the renewal or refinancing of any such loan, with a loan length of 36 months and 15 days or less. (Ga. Code Ann. § 7-3-3, § 7-3-11).
Again, finance companies and loan companies that make consumer loans of $3,000 or less and meet certain conditions must comply with the Georgia Installment Loan Act. Entities that make such loans are required to be licensed by the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance. (Ga. Code Ann. § 7-3-4).
To verify that an installment lender is authorized to operate in Georgia, go to the NMLS Consumer Access website, a free service for consumers to confirm that the financial-services company or professional with whom they wish to conduct business is authorized in their state. If you think you're dealing with an entity offering installment loans in Georgia that isn't listed as a licensed entity through NMLS Consumer Access, report the entity to [email protected].
The Georgia Installment Loan Act protects consumers in a few different ways.
The Georgia Installment Loan Act prohibits the willful use of any unreasonable collection tactics. Unreasonable collection tactics include, but aren't limited to, any conduct which:
If you think that a lender, debt collector, or collection agency has violated the Georgia Installment Loan Act, you have several options.
If you have had an issue with a licensed installment lender or debt collector in Georgia, you should first reach out to the company to resolve the matter. But if you aren't able to resolve the issue directly, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). After you submit a complaint, the CFPB will work to get you a response, typically within 15 days.
You can also report an issue to the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance by sending a detailed email and supporting documentation to [email protected]. The Department isn't authorized to resolve disputes between consumers and installment lenders but might use information in its regulatory process. The Georgia Department of Banking and Finance can investigate complaints and may take disciplinary or legal action against a company or person for violations of the Georgia Installment Loan Act. For instance, the Department may suspend or revoke the lender's business license for unreasonable collection tactics. The Department may also issue a cease and desist order for unauthorized activities. (Ga. Code Ann. § 7-3-40, § 7-3-45). (For more information about the Georgia Installment Loan Act and the Department of Banking and Finance's relationship to this law, visit the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance's Installment Loan page. )
A lender may even be found criminally liable for violating the Georgia Installment Loan Act. If the lender knowingly and willfully violated the law with an intent to defraud the borrower, the court may find the lender guilty of a misdemeanor and declare the loan null and void. Also, any person, including the executive officers, directors, trustees, owners, agents, and employees of such person, that willfully makes installment loans without a license or an exemption is guilty of a felony. (Ga. Code Ann. § 7-3-50).
You can file a lawsuit against an installment lender that violates the Georgia Installment Loan Act. If you win, you can get twice the amount of the interest and loan fees you paid but no less than $100. (Ga. Code Ann. § 7-3-50). If you need help filing a lawsuit, talk to a lawyer.