They say that you can use studies and statistics to prove anything that you want; regardless of whether what you are trying to prove is even legitimate. Such is the case with a recent study that the Federal Reserve did with regards to consumer dissatisfaction with online lenders. According to this study only about 15 percent of small business borrowers reported being satisfied with online loans they were approved to get. Here’s the kicker – that statistic doesn’t even accurately reflect the data collected in this study. But people are now being hit with headlines about how much small business owners detest online lending. The thing is, though, that it’s just not true. And the study is pretty much bogus from all appearances.
The stat that we just mentioned is actually a representation of how many people were satisfied versus dissatisfied. You can check this out by looking at the study’s footnotes. So, the 15 percent is actually a net satisfaction metric that indicates more borrowers were satisfied with their experiences with online lenders than dissatisfied. If you do the math, this statistic actually shows that more than 50 of borrowers reported being satisfied. Banks did score higher than online lending companies in this report, but with as unscientific as this study was it is difficult to tell if that statistic is bogus or on the level.
An Unscientific Study by the Federal Reserve
The Federal Reserve puts a lot of interesting information in the footnotes and fine print of their study. If you cut through all of the confusing information, here is what it really says:
Businesses get contacted via email from organizations that serve the small business community in participating Federal Reserve Districts.
The data are not statistical representations of small businesses.
By its own admission, the authors at the Fed are very clearly stating that the data was not random – in other words the data is biased and not representative of real world statistics. The report even opens up by saying, “Our hope is that this report contributes to policymakers’ and service providers’ understanding of the business conditions, credit needs, and borrowing experiences of small business owners.”
We can now see that the metrics used in this study don’t mean anything in the real world. But they are still being cited continuously. A report that the US Treasury published a few months ago even makes a direct citation of the 15 percent satisfaction metric. It’s a standard case of bad information being created and published and then running amuck.
So what’s next? Now that this bogus study is being quoted and used all over the place, how do we get to the truth of the matter at hand? We are now at a point where critics and supporters of the online lending industry are even starting to buy into the bogus statistic about only 15 percent of small businesses being satisfied with online lending. This conclusion has never been reached by a legitimate study. No one is looking at the fine print from the Fed’s report. Hopefully, people within the industry will begin to look closer at these types of reports to see if what is being represented is truthful. When powerful agencies, like the Fed are able to get away with pushing what are essentially biased reports to the general public, it is easy to understand why so many people are up in arms about the online lending industry. If those folks would actually look at the facts, however, they’d find out that more small business owners are satisfied than dissatisfied with the online lending industry. It seems that is not the kind of true story, however, that the Fed wants the public to know about.