Today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau traveled to Birmingham, Ala., for our first field hearing. We gathered to discuss and collect information on payday lending. The payday lending market is a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States, and Alabama has one of the largest concentrations of payday lenders in the country.

Payday loans can arrive the same day and are usually due to be paid back within two weeks. Many consumers turn to payday loans because they find themselves in a financial pinch. However, these small-dollar loans can come at a hefty price, sometimes with an APR of more than 400 percent. When consumers can’t pay on time, they find themselves taking on more debt to cover the previous loan that has now come due. This can quickly lead consumers down a road of risk that often spirals into an ongoing cycle of debt.

We understand that there is demand for small-value loans from many consumers. Even some traditional banks now offer a similar product called a deposit “advance.” But we want to make sure that consumers understand the consequences of their decisions and are protected from risks that may be inherent in these products. Today, we released our procedures for examining bank and nonbank institutions offering short-term, small-dollar loans .

The goal of our field hearing is to listen, learn, and gather information to help us better understand the payday lending market so that we can choose the appropriate tools to balance the needs of consumers with the risks they face. Please use the comment box below to tell us about your experiences with payday loans. (You can also tell us your story privately.)

Due to technical issues, the commenting feature of our blog is temporarily unavailable. We’re working to bring this functionality back, and look forward to hearing your feedback and comments about the CFPB’s work soon.