The North Carolina Senate is considering a bill -- supported by the finance industry and criticized by consumer advocates -- that could increase interest rates for borrowers who take out consumer loans. The industry says current consumer-finance laws should be updated and brought in line with the increased cost of doing business, but consumer advocates say the industry's loans take advantage of people who can least afford it. For example, Sharon Crouse took out her first consumer-finance loan about six years ago to cover health problems but eventually had separate loans from five different companies. According to her loan documents, she borrowed a total of $6,486.14. After paying off past balances, she still had $2,165.48 left; but the consumer-finance companies collectively sought $1,649.67 in interest charges and fees over the life of those loans. In other lending legislation, Senate Bill 489 -- currently in committee -- cuts the maximum interest rate from 36 percent to 30 percent, while also hiking the rates on loans above $1,000. Opponents of the bill point out that the loans that carry the highest rate of 36 percent accounted for only 3.3 percent of consumer loans made in North Carolina in 2011. The new bill would consolidate all loans under one law with the 30 percent interest rate expanded to loans of up to $5,000, and a 24 percent rate applied to the next $5,000.