On September 8, Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell announced that SEI/Aaron’s, Inc. has entered into an assurance of discontinuance, which includes $51,000 in total fines, to settle charges over the company’s remote monitoring of its customers’ leased laptops. The settlement stems from charges accusing SEI/Aaron’s, an Atlanta-based franchise of the national rent-to-own retailer Aaron’s, Inc., of unlawfully using surveillance software on its leased laptops to assist the company in the collection of its customers’ overdue rental payments. The Vermont Office of the Attorney General claimed that such remote monitoring of the laptop users’ online activities in connection with debt collection constituted an unfair practice in violation of the Vermont Consumer Protection Act.
Under the settlement, the company agreed to pay a $45,000 civil penalty to the state of Vermont and $2,000 to each of the three Vermont consumers whose leased laptops were monitored by SEI/Aaron’s for allegedly unlawful purposes. The company also agreed to not install any monitoring software on its customers’ leased computers in connection with debt collection activities or in response to delinquent payments.
The Vermont Attorney General’s settlement with SEI/Aaron’s comes nearly a year after the company’s franchisor, Aaron’s Inc., reached a settlement with the FTC over charges that the franchisor knowingly played a vital role in its franchisees’ installation and use of surveillance software on rental computers to secretly monitor consumers.