Internet giant sends a message to payday-loan lenders

Google is a colossal Internet presence, of course, a giant in the realm of search engines that guide consumers in their choices.

But is it now an arbiter of right-versus-wrong as regards consumer lending practices, and a newly emerged champion of the people against usurious loan products?

Many people hope so, and would like to see other companies also come forward to act in the manner that Google recently did in thwarting the promotion of what it regards as harmful business activity in its online domain.

Here's what the search engine titan did last week: It announced that, from July 13 of this year, it will flatly disallow any advertising from what it deems as bad-faith payday lenders on its site.

What qualifies as bad faith in Google's view is this: any loan offer with a cited APR of 36 percent or higher, as well as products that demand repayment within 60 days of account establishment.

It merits noting that Google's decision does not bar advertising by other types of lenders, including those that offer credit cards, mortgages, car loans and student tuition products.

Still, it's a start, and it has been duly noted. One national media outlet states that advocacy groups have lauded Google's move in response to the reality that payday loan products often "take advantage of people in already difficult financial situations."

Google's restrictions on what it construes as truly predatory advertising do not entirely straitjacket affected payday lenders, of course, given that they can still take advantage of other advertising outlets.

However, there is no denying that the dominant search engine's closing of the door on certain loan products will make a difference, especially if other advertising gatekeepers will now be inclined to take similar actions.

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