Aaron's rent-to-own business to pay $28 million

AP News
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Posted: Oct 13, 2014 5:00 PM

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The nation's second-largest chain of rent-to-own furniture and appliance stores has agreed to pay $28.4 million to settle a case in which it allegedly violated California's consumer protection and privacy laws, attorney general Kamala Harris announced Monday.

Aaron's Inc. overcharged customers, omitted important contract disclosures and installed software that could track the keystrokes of people who rented computers and even activate webcams or microphones to record users, according to a complaint filed by Harris' office. Last year, Aaron's settled a case with the Federal Trade Commission over spyware installed on computers.

The Atlanta-based business operates approximately 75 stores in California. Its rents couches, appliances, electronics and other household merchandise.

"Aaron's concealed its illegal privacy and business practices from customers in a deceptive attempt to avoid California's robust consumer protection laws and increase its profits," Harris said.

Those practices included charging a 10 percent "service plus" fee and improper late fees, according to the complaint.

The company will pay $3.4 million in civil penalties and fees, while about 100,000 customers are eligible for $25 million in refunds for leases signed over the past four years. Eligible customers will receive a written notice at their last known mailing address, or can submit a claim at www.rent-to-own-settlement.com or by calling 877-449-8548.

A company spokeswoman said Aaron's admitted no wrongdoing or liability.

"Aaron's, Inc. and its franchisees are committed to ensuring that our business practices in California and everywhere meet or exceed both legal requirements and the expectations of our customers," spokeswoman Garet Hayes said in a written statement.