Rent-A-Center settles harassment and other charges made by Washington attorney general

rent-a-center settles allegationsRent-A-Center, the national furniture, electronics and appliance rental chain, has settled charges that the company charged outrageous fees in addition to harassing and threatening customers to collect owed money.

Washington state's attorney general filed a complaint in July showing the absurdly high prices people would pay - particularly on long-term rentals when the payments could wind up being more than it would cost to buy the item -- as well as the depths to which its staff would go to extract money from its typically lower income customers. Only a small percentage of customers are able to complete the payment plan that would result in their owning the item.

Texas-based Rent-A-Center, which has about 3,000 locations nationwide, agreed to pay Washington $343,000 and to not violate the following terms:
  • Call or visit a customer's workplace after having been told not to
  • Use profanity or any language meant to abuse, ridicule or degrade the customer.
  • Attempt to harass a customer to take action by repeatedly calling, leaving messages, knocking on doors or ringing doorbells.
  • Ask someone, other than a spouse, to make a payment on behalf of a customer.
  • Obtain payment through a customer's bank, credit card or other account without authorization.
  • Speak to a customer more than six times per week to discuss an overdue account.
  • Engage in violence.
  • Trespass
  • Call or visit a customer at home or work after receiving legal notice that the customer has filed bankruptcy
  • Impersonate others on collection calls
  • Discuss a customer's account with anyone other than a spouse.
  • Threaten unwarranted legal action
  • Leave a recorded message for a customer that includes anything other than the caller's name, contact information and a courteous request that the customer return the call.
In addition, the company said it will continue a recently initiated policy of listing a cash purchase price below its monthly rental fee. Rent-A-Center admitted no wrongdoing in agreeing to the settlement, whose terms reflect the complaints lodged against the company by the attorney general.

"Rent-A-Center maintains it has done no wrong but agrees to comply with all the terms of our settlement, which makes it clear that harassing customers for payments won't be tolerated," Attorney General Rob McKenna said in a press release.

Rent-A-Center Vice President Xavier Dominicis told WalletPop last summer that Rent-A-Center employees already were expected to abide by those terms and doing otherwise would not be tolerated. He also said the company had not gotten a fair shake and was providing a service, particularly needed in a down economy, so the credit-challenged and lower income customers could use items they otherwise couldn't afford to buy.

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