CITY HALL — The City Council put new consumer-protection restrictions on debt collectors and "predatory" payday-loan outlets Thursday.
The new ordinances prevent pawnshops and payday-loan outlets from setting up shop within 1,000 feet of similar businesses, to keep them from dominating and "preying" on downtrodden neighborhoods. They also call on debt collectors to be licensed in the city, and the new law threatens them with a four-year suspension of that license if they're found to have violated state and federal laws protecting consumers from harassment.
The ordinances also put teeth into local laws on consumer protection and fair labor practices, threatening businesses that violate state and federal laws such as wage theft with license denial or revocation.
Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) cheered the ordinances, saying they didn't diminish from Mayor Rahm Emanuel's clearly stated goal to make Chicago "the most business-friendly city in the country."
"It's not just about balancing the interests of business, but it's also about balancing the interests of consumers," Pawar said during Thursday's City Council meeting.
"This is also pro-business," he added. "It is a social responsibility to protect people, but also protect good business from bad business."
"I'm proud that the City Council took today's actions, because it also reinforces the partnership we're going to have with the consumer office in Washington," Emanuel said. He first outlined the consumer-protection ordinances at a news conference last month with Richard Cordray, director of the newly created federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Under that partnership, the city's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection is sharing information on consumer affairs and rogue businesses with the protection bureau on the national level.