Consumer protection in the wind on payday loans

Payday lenders argue they provide a needed service. But are their charges fair? Chris Robinson, a professor of finance at York’s Atkinson School of Administrative Studies, thinks they’re not, wrote financial columnist (and Glendon alumnus ) James Daw (BA ‘72) in the Toronto Star May 30. In a study for ACORN, also known as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, Robinson proposes a fee cap that could save Canadians about $194 million a year. That’s about 57 per cent of his estimate of recent industry revenues, Daw wrote.

Robinson predicts his proposed rate structure would drive smaller, high-cost lenders out of existence. “Their scale will be too small to survive on the lower fees.” Only one or two large chains would survive, he predicts, but they could expand and be more profitable. Meanwhile, a legislated fee limit with the government’s seal of approval might then encourage banks and credit unions to offer small, short-term loans in competition. This, says Robinson, could lead to further rate reductions.

Mainstream financial institutions offer more services than payday lenders, noted Daw. So, Robinson predicts, the big traditionals would be in a position to undercut the big payday lenders, National Money Mart Co. and The Cash Store. “Without properly designed regulation, they will not enter the market, and hence borrowers will always face exceptionally high fees,” Robinson argues.

The current and former presidents of the Canadian Payday Loan Association say they welcome Robinson’s and ACORN’s call for regulation, with sufficient fees for lenders to recover their cost of operation. But they do not endorse Robinson’s proposed fee cap, wrote Daw. Michael Thompson, the current president, says the fee cap should be set high enough to allow any company that offers payday loans to operate at a profit, and leave it up to consumers to shop. “We don’t think he should try to manipulate the marketplace,” he says.

Former association president Robert Whitelaw says Robinson should be applauded for at least putting some numbers on the table but the data should be up for discussion. He notes one of Robinson’s proposed rate formulas is not as high as is permitted in some US states.

Judge angered over flouting of law

A judge is demanding provincial police and the province explain why they haven’t enforced his order to end an aboriginal occupation of a housing development and lift the barricades on nearby railway tracks where protesters burned down a bridge last month, reported CanWest News Service May 30. Ontario Superior Court Justice David Marshall has taken the highly unusual step of ordering the provincial police, the Attorney General of Ontario, First Nations leaders, the developers and other parties to a special court session Thursday to explain why his orders are being flouted.

Osgoode Hall Law School Professor Alan Young said he can’t remember another instance when a judge has taken the initiative of pressing for the enforcement of his own order. Judges usually assume their orders will be obeyed and maintain an “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” attitude toward enforcement, Young said. “The reason for this unusual step is because there are injunctive and other orders of this court remaining outstanding,” Marshall said.

York theatre student On the Rise

If “Canadian Idol” made love to “Star Search” and gave birth to a baby that was then raised by a pack of wild entertainment-industry-elitists, the result would be “On The Rise”, a seminar and talent search thrown at York Event Theatre last Sunday, reported the Toronto Star May 30. The gathering was a chance for actors, both up-and-coming and wanting-to-one-day-come-up, to put on their most believable perma-smiles, tilt their heads in faux sincerity and shake hands and words (yes, words can be shaken) with some of the country’s most reputable names behind television and film.

It also acted as an act-off that began with close to 200 young performers earlier this month and ended with one winner, said the Star. Before the victor was appointed, though, notable actors, casting agents, agents, producers and directors gathered in their respective group panels to answer questions flung at them by the crowd of eager aspiring superstars of all ages. The finalists, ranging in age from 9 to 24, performed scenes from various films while being scored by the judges and scrutinized by their peers until finally David Schokking, a 22-year-old student in York University’s theatre program, was named On The Rise Champion of 2006.

Benjamin book introduction written by York English professor

In a column published in the National Post May 30, Robert Fulford noted the release of two new publications of books by author Walter Benjamin (1892-1940), an astute critic of art and literature. One of the books, On Hashish, practises what he called “profane illumination.” In the introduction to On Hashish, Marcus Boon, a professor in York’s Department of English, Faculty of Arts, notes that no one will be surprised by Benjamin’s report that drugs make mundane objects appear to radiate secret meanings.

Airline dogfight ends, war continues

Now that Air Canada and WestJet Airlines Ltd. have shaken hands and put their nasty court battle behind them, is Canada headed for a renewed airline duopoly where two friendly companies together control the skies? asked The Globe and Mail May 30. Not a chance, say analysts, because the two firms remain bitter rivals battling for the hearts and minds of travellers.

The personalities of the airline bosses will also ensure competition remains intense, said Fred Lazar, a professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business. “[WestJet chairman] Clive Beddoe won’t give an inch to Air Canada. That’s not going to change. And at Air Canada, [chairman] Robert Milton and [president] Montie Brewer are very competitive and play to win. They’re not going to give an inch either.”

The collapse of deep-discount airline Jetsgo in March 2005 was much more important in shifting the relationship between WestJet and Air Canada. “Ever since the demise of Jetsgo, they’ve been less aggressive in going after each other,” Lazar said. Both were happy to see the upstart disappear, and it led to an “uneasy truce” in fare discounting, he added. That was reinforced by the rise in oil prices, which added more pressure to keep ticket prices above rock bottom, he said. Still, “it’s not as if they’ve cozied up and formed a nice little cartel” since Jetsgo’s collapse. There will continue to be some discounts, amid sharply different marketing and scheduling strategies between the airlines, explained Lazar.

Jockey Sutherland is enjoying her spring ride

It has been quite a heady spring for Winnipeg-born jockey Chantal Sutherland (BA ‘99), reported the National Post May 30. Sutherland, 29, a York University graduate who cut her racing chops at Woodbine and now hangs her tack at New York’s Belmont Park, was recently named to People magazine’s list of the 100 Most Beautiful People in the World. “After I did a Vogue magazine spread, People called to tell me I’d be on the list and asked me to pose for a photo shoot and do an interview,” Sutherland said. “It was cool. I was really happy that [IRL driver] Danica Patrick was in the same issue with me. I just signed with the same agency she’s signed with and I’d really love to do something with her in the future.”

Sutherland rode Gigawatt, a 25-1 longshot, to victory in the Miami Mile Breeders’ Cup race at Calder in late April and has been getting a ride or two a day with the big name jockeys at Belmont. “It’s a lot of work, but you have to get your name out there,” she said. “It gets better all the time.”

Not all 30-somethings are rich and worry free, says Middleton

Retailers are falling for a new target market, and this just in: It’s not the baby boomers, reported the Hamilton Spectator May 30. Singles in their 30s, with excess cash and a love of the finer things in life, are becoming a niche market of choice. Not that all 30-somethings are flush with cash and anxious to unload it. Like any demographic, there are plenty of subgroups within it, says Alan Middleton, a marketing professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business. “The assumption is they are all the same and of course they aren’t,” Middleton said. “There are a lot of backgrounds within the group.” For instance, unlike their parents, today’s 30-somethings tend to worry more about job security, a concern that can inhibit spending. “The thought used to be if I keep my nose clean, I’ll have this job for the next 40 years,” he said. “People don’t have that same confidence now.”