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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

Massachusetts AG settles with household goods rental company for unfair debt collection practices

State Issues Massachusetts State Attorney General Debt Collection

State Issues

On November 28, the State AG of Massachusetts filed an assurance of discontinuance with a household goods rental company for unfair and deceptive debt collection practices. The company offers household goods under a rent-to-own payment contract as part of its business model. According to the assurance, customers would rent a good and then pay it off over several months to several years to obtain ownership; however, the assurance of discontinuance alleges that, for customers who failed to make payment or never returned the item, the company resorted to aggressive tactics: sending employees out to collect payments by making house visits, “pounding on doors, turning doorknobs to see if they were unlocked, and demanding to be let in.”

In addition to these collection tactics, the assurance of discontinuance states that the company would file criminal complaints. The AG of Massachusetts finds this to be an improper use of “the criminal process, [such as] the threat of arrest or prosecution, as a [d]ebt collection tool.” Additionally, if a customer failed to make timely payments or return the rented property, the company would file a criminal complaint alleging their customers were committing larceny. In the assurance, the company agrees to pay $8.75 million, and the company must cease filing criminal complaints against customers.