Rent-A-Center settles alleged excessive pricing dispute in California | national news

By DON THOMPSON – Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Rent-A-Center, one of the nation’s largest rent-to-own companies, will pay $15.5 million to settle California allegations that it inducted mistake and overcharged tens of thousands of customers, Attorney General Rob Bonta said. Tuesday.

An investigation into the company’s “kiosk” operations at traditional retail furniture stores found that since 2014 it had been using what Bonta called an inflated “spot price” for products that was 15% higher than the actual retail price, among others. alleged violations.

The practice has hit more than 100,000 contracts through the company’s Preferred Lease line, formerly known as AcceptanceNOW, although the company also has more than 2,000 stand-alone stores.

Many consumers are looking for rent-to-own options without realizing that “the total price they will pay will end up being much higher” than if they were buying outright, Bonta said. And with Rent-A-Center’s 15% “illegal surcharge,” he said, “that couch, that refrigerator, or that washing machine is potentially costing struggling families hundreds of extra dollars.”

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These businesses rent out things like furniture and appliances, often to low- to moderate-income customers who typically pay weekly or monthly. Usually, after one to three years, they then own the product.

The company will return $13.5 million in restitution to California consumers as part of the settlement, pay $2 million in civil penalties and agree not to engage in future misconduct, Bonta said. Consumers who rented through the company’s kiosks are eligible for the return and should receive notice at their last known mailing address, he said.

Rent-A-Center did not immediately respond to repeated emails seeking comment. He has not admitted any violation, wrongdoing or liability under the rule.

Bonta said items sold under these policies are often overpriced. He alleged that Rent-A-Center also failed to inform its customers that they could return the products at any time without penalty.

Under the regulations, the company is prohibited from charging a markup on the cash price and its price must match the advertised price. The company also agreed to better inform customers of their rights, train its employees, and submit annual compliance reports to the Bonta office for three years.

Separately, Bonta announced the formation of a national, bipartisan anti-robot litigation task force that he says will investigate and prosecute the telecommunications companies he has accused of bringing a majority of foreign robocalls to the United States.

The task force has already sent civil investigation requests to 20 providers, alleging they are not doing enough to stop robocall traffic.

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