Paul L. Caron

Monday, May 18, 2020

Hayashi: Myopic Consumer Law

Andrew T. Hayashi (Virginia), Myopic Consumer Law, 106 Va. L. Rev. 689 (2020):

People make mistakes with debt, partly because the chance to buy now and pay later tempts them to do things that are not in their long-term interest. Lenders sell credit products that exploit this vulnerability. In this Article, I argue that critiques of these products that draw insights from behavioral law and economics have a blind spot: they ignore what the borrowed funds are used for. By evaluating financing transactions in isolation from the underlying purchase, the cost-benefit analysis of consumer financial regulation is truncated and misleading. I show that the same psychological bias that allows someone to be sold an exploitative loan also makes it possible that the exploitative loan benefits them by causing them to purchase a product or service that they should, but would not otherwise, buy.

I demonstrate the importance of this effect in a study of tax refund anticipation loans. I find that regulation curtailing these loans increased the use of an alternative credit product and reduced the use of paid tax preparers and the take-up of the earned income tax credit.

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