TikTok lets payday lenders prey on financially vulnerable users
All three companies have come under scrutiny for deceptive lending practices that, according to consumer testimonies, resulted in additional fees or other financial harm.
In 2019, Earnin faced a class action for deceptive lending practices – which he eventually settled for $12.5 million – from customers “alleging that it engaged in misleading advertising and failed to provide appropriate information to its users”.
That year, NBC reported that Earnin’s critics have characterized it as “operating effectively as a payday lender – providing small, short-term loans at the equivalent of high interest – while avoiding conventional lending regulations designed to prevent consumers from getting in over their heads”. In 2020, the New York Times reported that Earnin “has caused more than a quarter of a million workers to incur the overdraft and other charges he promised to protect them from”.
The other two companies — Brigitte and albert – are not accredited with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and both have an average score of around one out of five stars. User reviews on BBB pages for Brigit and Albert allege unexpected charges, missing direct deposits and bank accounts opened without the user’s knowledge.
One user described Brigit as ‘predatory company at its best’ and listed the grievances: ‘Really hard to cancel, requires you to take out a monthly subscription for their ‘services’, says they’re here to help, but when you do manage to cancel say they will charge you again.” Another user wrote, “I borrowed $50 and so did they[k] $107 in my account. This seems to be a trend, as another user claimed to have tried to get a lead from Brigit, but the money never came. They actually had funds withdrawn from their account by Brigit as they tried to get an advance payment.
Albert’s reviews show that the company holds direct deposit funds and opens bank accounts without consumer consent.
By allowing these predatory payday loan companies to advertise on its platform, TikTok allows them to target financially vulnerable users – and profit from those ads.