Rent-A-Center settles collection practices suit

Nick Rees Mar. 2, 2010, 10:00am


SEATTLE (Legal Newsline) - Rent-A-Center has agreed to a settlement with Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna, seven months after being sued for allegedly crossing the line with its collection tactics.

In its lawsuit, the state contended that Rent-A-Center's collection tactics included swearing at customers, pounding on doors, peering into windows and threatening to arrest customers.

"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," McKenna said.

McKenna's July complaint claimed that the collection practices employed by Rent-A-Center, under Washington's Consumer Protection Act, were unfair and deceptive.

Customers' testimony presented by the state alleged debt collecting employees of Rent-A-Center attempted to kick in the door of a couple's home and told an autistic 11-year-old girl being babysat that her mom could be jailed for theft.

Rent-A-Center, which has 3,000 stores nationally and 50 in Washington, denied the state's allegations but agreed to a list of restrictions on its collection practices as part of the settlement.

Under terms of the settlement, Rent-A-Center employees can no longer speak to a customer more than six times per week to discuss in an overdue account. The employees are not allowed to engage in violence or trespass, including entering a customer's home or yard other than when necessary to reach the primary entrance.

Employees are prohibited from calling or visiting a customer at home or work after receiving legal notice that the customer has filed bankruptcy, unless the court or bankruptcy trustee authorizes them. The employees may also not impersonate others or fail to properly identify themselves when making collection calls.

Rent-a-Center will pay $100,000 to monitor and enforce the settlement and $243,000 in attorneys' fees and legal costs.

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