The West Virginia Attorney General's Office has recently filed suit seeking to stop a rent-to-own business from practicing "overly aggressive collection tactics" on customers whose accounts are past due.
The lawsuit targets alleged violations of the state’s consumer protection laws by Howard Rents, a Kentucky company that operates three Aaron’s rent-to-own stores in Beckley, Ripley and Summersville, and offers merchandise such as furniture, computers and appliances.
“With this lawsuit, we hope to stop this company and any others from engaging in what our complaint alleges is coercive and unconscionable conduct,” said Attorney General Patrick Morrisey in the release. “This action should serve as a warning to others that our office will vigorously work to protect West Virginians against any violation of the state’s consumer protection laws.”
According to the court filing, if customers got behind on their accounts, the defendant would engage in collection tactics that wrongfully disclosed the alleged debt and subjected consumers to “shame, embarrassment, ridicule, and harassment.”
The suit also alleged that the defendant routinely made unwarranted telephone calls to third parties, such as family members and persons listed as references, and made in-person visits to customers at their homes and places of employment to coerce payment of alleged debts.
In one such incident, the suit said a customer employed at a Fayette County restaurant says the company’s collection employees came to her workplace. Once there, they told her to pay a $66 debt and did so in front of the woman’s coworkers, managers and customers. When she asked them to leave, the collectors refused. They said they could not do so unless she paid her debt or spoke with their boss, the suit said.
After repeatedly asking them to depart, the defendant’s employees finally did. However, yet another employee then called the restaurant asking to speak with her. Despite her fellow employees and supervisors asking him to stop calling, the suit said the employee phoned another three times.
The lawsuit seeks a court order to restrain the defendant from engaging in similarly coercive behavior with customers in the future.
It also seeks restitution for all consumers who may have been aggrieved by the defendant's unlawful practices.
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