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Coalition to fight predatory lending

March 06, 2007|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A coalition of consumer and civil rights groups says it plans to launch a national campaign today to highlight what it considers abusive and predatory lending practices in the banking, credit card and mortgage industries.

The coalition, Americans for Fairness in Lending, is made up of the Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, the NAACP, the National Council of La Raza, and other organizations.

Mortgage banks that specialize in lending to consumers with weak credit have seen their stock prices plunge in recent weeks as concerns mount about increasing defaults.

The coalition, which is not focusing on specific companies, plans to criticize such practices as offering credit cards to unemployed college students and others unlikely to be able to repay the debt, and charging excessive fees for late credit card and other payments.

The group has also targeted tax preparers that offer rapid refunds and "payday lenders" and other fast-loan providers that charge "ridiculously high rates."

Kirsten Keefe, executive director of Americans for Fairness in Lending, said the group favored stronger regulation and better disclosure of fees and costs.

The group will launch its website today and is planning a print and radio ad campaign, Keefe said. The launch of the campaign coincides with the release of "Maxed Out," a documentary on debt in the United States, the coalition said.

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