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Massachustts AG Campbell Announces $8.75 Million Settlement With Rent-A-Center For Alleged Pattern Of Abusive Misconduct Targeting Low-Income Communities
The rent-to-own company allegedly filed criminal charges as a means of debt collection, engaged in harassing, obscene, and abusive debt collection calls, and threatened repossession against consumers who missed rental payments on household items and goods
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
BOSTON — Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell has announced a $8.75 million settlement, via an assurance of discontinuance (AOD), with Rent-A-Center (RAC), to resolve allegations that the company engaged in a pattern of unfair and deceptive business practices against consumers in violation of state consumer protection laws.
Under the terms of the AOD, RAC will pay $8.75 million to the Commonwealth and make significant changes to its business practices to comply with state consumer protection laws, including fair debt collection and repossession practices.
“I am proud of my team’s dedication in securing a settlement with Rent-A-Center, which sadly utilized egregious tactics to target and exploit low-income communities for profit,” said AG Campbell. “My office will continue to protect all consumers from harmful and exploitive practices by those who do business in our state.”
RAC, headquartered in Texas, is among the nation’s largest rent-to-own consumer goods companies, and operates over 40 retail locations in Massachusetts, many of which are in predominantly low-income communities and communities of color. RAC leases basic household goods and essentials at a high cost to consumers who cannot afford to purchase household goods at a traditional retailer.
Following an in-depth investigation led by the AG’s Consumer Protection and Civil Rights Divisions, the AG’s Office alleges that Rent-A-Center repeatedly engaged in coercive and abusive conduct towards consumers who missed or otherwise failed to make rental payments under their RAC contracts, leading to significant emotional and financial harm to RAC consumers.
RAC’s alleged conduct includes misusing the state’s criminal processes. Often as part of an effort to coerce consumers into making additional payments, RAC filed applications for criminal theft and larceny complaints against consumers who failed to make payments. The AG’s Office found that RAC regularly filed such criminal complaint applications, including against consumers who had previously paid significant amounts of money to RAC over multiple years before they fell behind on their rental payments. As part of the settlement, RAC has agreed to discontinue its practice of filing criminal complaints against consumers for missing payments.
The investigation also revealed that RAC excessively called consumers’ residences, workplaces and personal phones in violation of the AGO’s Debt Collection Regulations, which states that debt collection calls may only be made to consumers twice within a 7-day period. Moreover, the AG’s Office found that RAC often failed to notify consumers of home visits or repossession attempts, showing up unannounced to consumers’ residences, often leading to physical confrontations between consumers and RAC employees and RAC employees removing all or certain parts of merchandise.
Consumers who believe they may have been subject to unfair and deceptive business practices may file a consumer complaint with the AG’s Office.