Rent-to-Own Company Fernish Forced to Give Customers Refunds
The California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) today finalized a settlement with Los Angeles-based rent-to-own company Fernish that will require the company to give refunds to nearly 400 customers.
Based on DFPI’s investigation, the DFPI found that Fernish overcharged consumers late payment fees and failed to provide consumer disclosures required under California’s rent-to-own law (the Karnette Rental-Purchase Act) in violation of the CCFPL, which became operative this year. As part of the settlement, Fernish agrees to desist and refrain from violating the CCFPL, refund at least 387 customers overcharges, and to begin offering its rent-to-own products and services in compliance with the Karnette Rental-Purchase Act.
“It is important for all companies to prioritize compliance with consumer financial protection laws so consumers can make informed decisions,” said DFPI Commissioner Clothilde V. Hewlett. “This first action against a rent-to-own firm reminds California businesses and consumers that the DFPI will be exercising its expanded authority under the new law.”
A report by the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) noted that the rent-to-own industry is fraught with challenges for consumers.
The California settlement is an anomaly, according to experts at NCLC:
“For decades, the rent to own industry has evaded core consumer protection laws to target and drain wealth from families, especially households of color, already living on the edge,” said National Consumer Law Center Skadden Fellow Brian Highsmith and primary author of the report. “We hope that this report will shine a light on the misuse of our criminal courts by the rent-to-own industry, and help advocates and policymakers wishing to end this form of consumer abuse,” said Highsmith.
The settlement with Fernish is the first of its kind relative to a new California consumer protection law.