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Aaron's Rental Firm To Pay $24.8M To Settle Claims They Spied On Customers Via Webcams

Do you ever get the feeling that you're being watched?
Aaron's Rental Firm To Pay $24.8M To Settle Claims They Spied On Customers Via Webcams
Image from: ajc.com

Spying on rental customers? And installing keystroke loggers? I have to wonder if any other companies are doing this. This is really shocking:

Los Angeles • 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, state Attorney General Kamala Harris said 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.

Aaron’s has about 75 stores in California, as well as 23 in Utah cities from St. George to Logan. It 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.

Customers to whom the settlement applies will receive a written notice at their last known address, or can submit a claim at www.rent-to-own-settlement.com or call 877-449-8548.

The original story broke in 2011. Via Slashgear:

This grabbed headlines this week after Crystal and Brian Byrd claim that an Aaron's store manager showed up at their home to repossess a notebook that the couple had rented and purchased from Aaron's due to an accounting error at the store. The Byrd's were able to show the manager a receipt proving they had purchased the computer. However, the manager had already reportedly produced a photo of the couple using the computer as proof that they still had the machine and were using it.

The photo was taken from the computer's webcam. There is no indication of how many photos have been taken of the Byrd family and others that rent the machines from the store. What is known is that at any time Aaron's could have taken photos using the webcam. Those photos could have shown any member of the family naked or otherwise including the couple's 5-year-old boy. The Byrd family notified the police, and an investigation is underway.


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