RED ROCK — The state Department of Consumer Credit has received official complaints against another online payday loan company owned by an Oklahoma Indian tribe.
Mary Keel, chief examiner with the Department of Consumer Credit, said there have been four official complaints filed by consumers against American Web Loan. She said the complaints are confidential.
Loan companies claiming to be “wholly owned” by the Otoe-Missouria Tribe, including American Web Loan, have been receiving consumer complaints since around the time they were formed, Better Business Bureau records show.
Tribal leaders respond
Tribal leaders say the complaints are not a reflection of the business practices of the lending companies.
“The financial services offered by the Otoe-Missouria Tribe to underbanked consumers in the United States are high-quality products,” said Charles J. Moncooyea, the tribe's vice chairman. “The Otoe-Missouria Tribe is a member of both the Online Lenders Alliance and the Native American Financial Services Association and strictly follows the Best Practices established by both organizations with regard to collection procedures.”
Moncooyea said the tribe's call centers record and monitor “all collection calls to ensure compliance.” He said he believes some of the tribe's loan customers may have become victims of a debt collection scheme with reported links to organized crime in India.
“We are concerned that ‘phantom debt collectors' operating from overseas locations are illegally contacting our customers,” Moncooyea said. “As ABC News reported last month, online loan applicants' personal information is being acquired by criminals and consumers are being victimized.”
Two other companies, Great Plains Lending and Clear Creek Lending, also claim to be owned by the tribe, although complaints against them are far less numerous.
Complaints involve billing, collections
On the Better Business Bureau's website, complaints against American Web Loan total 101 since February 2011, just weeks after the tribe's payday lending operations started up.
An Otoe-Missouria Tribe newsletter, which was distributed in late 2010, included a news article about the tribe's new payday lending operation.
In the article, Moncooyea said the “new business has some restrictions.”
“It is not available to Otoe-Missouria tribal members or military,” Moncooyea said. “It will be a company that will not be open to the public, and all information will be via Internet.”
Most of the complaints filed against American Web Loan on the Better Business Bureau's website involve billing and collections issues. Roughly 20 percent of the complaints were concerning other issues.
Betsy Lordan, a spokeswoman with the Federal Trade Commission, wouldn't confirm or deny whether her agency is looking into the companies claiming to be owned by the Otoe-Missouria Tribe.
“Unfortunately we are not going to be able to talk about anything having to do with upcoming investigations, as they are confidential until (and) unless we announce a complaint,” Lordan said in an emailed statement.