Clusters of cheque cashing, payday loan shops in city’s sights

SURREY – Surrey is looking to crack down on the clustering of cheque cashing centres and payday loan stores.

The majority of such businesses in the city are located in the town centres of Whalley, Newton and Guildford.

At Monday’s council meeting, council directed staff to draft bylaw amendments that would require a 400-metre separation between such operations. The approach is similar to what the city has done to regulate small-scale drug stores.

Any approved amendments would not apply to existing licensed businesses in operation, but to new businesses coming in. The expectation is that after restrictions are put in place, the clustering would gradually diminish.

Payday lending is a provincially regulated industry, while cheque cashing stores are not subject to provincial regulation. But both are subject to the city’s standard business licensing.

Staff will come back to council with drafted amendments for the required readings.

Meanwhile, The Cash Store, which has three locations in Surrey, is facing issues in Ontario. The publicly-traded Cash Store Financial Services Inc. said Monday it has been granted protection from creditors by an Ontario court.

The Cash Store said it went after protection to address liquidity issues, caused in part by certain regulatory actions taken in Ontario that impacted its business there.

The Globe and Mail reported that in February, the Ontario Registrar of Payday Loans said it wanted to revoke the company’s licences in the province.

The registrar cited conduct that included convictions in November 2013 that Cash Store and Instaloans were operating as unlicensed payday lenders.

It also alleged the company charged more than a legal maximum of $21 for every $100 payday loan.

The company said FTI Consulting Canada Inc. would serve as a courtappointed monitor of the company and report to the court during a restructuring.