Following a public comment period, the Federal Trade Commission has approved nine final orders settling charges that seven rent-to-own companies and a software design firm and its two principals spied on consumers using computers that consumers rented from them. The companies used software to take screenshots of confidential and personal information, log customers’ computer keystrokes, and in some cases take webcam pictures of people in their own homes, all without the customers’ knowledge.
In settling the FTC’s administrative complaint, the respondents will be prohibited from using monitoring software and banned from using deceptive methods to gather information from consumers. The settlements will prohibit the use of geophysical location tracking without consumer consent and notice, and bar the use of fake software registration screens to collect personal information from consumers. The seven rent-to-own stores will also be prohibited from using information improperly gathered from consumers to collect on accounts. In addition, the software company, DesignerWare, and its principals, Ronald P. Koller and Timothy Kelly, will be barred from providing others with the means to commit illegal acts. All of the proposed settlements contain record-keeping requirements to enable the FTC to monitor compliance with the orders for 20 years.
The respondents, with links to the respective orders and associated public comments, are:
- DesignerWare, LLC [order | comments];
- Timothy Kelly and Ronald P. Koller [order | comments];
- Aspen Way Enterprises Inc. [order | comments];
- Watershed Development Corp., doing business as Watershed and Aaron’s Sales & Lease Ownership [order | comments];
- Showplace Inc., d/b/a Showplace Rent-to-Own [order | comments];
- J.A.G. Rents LLC, d/b/a ColorTyme [order | comments];
- Red Zone Investment Group Inc., d/b/a ColorTyme [order | comments];
- B. Stamper Enterprises Inc., d/b/a Premier Rental Purchase [order |comments]; and
- C.A.L.M. Ventures, d/b/a Premier Rental Purchase [order | comments].
The Commission vote approving the final orders and letters to members of the public who commented on it was 3-0-1, with Commissioner Wright not participating. (FTC File No. 112-3151; the staff contacts are Julie Mayer, 206-220-4475, and Tracy Thorleifson, 206-220-4181.)
Of course, as regular readers of this blog know, there are ongoing lawsuits against Aaron’s that include allegations that some of the problematic behavior may have continued after the consent orders were first posted for public comment.
I don’t know if you generally read the comments submitted by the public on proposed settlements, but this one generated a lot of public comment – much of it seemingly by employees and rental store owners who are not happy with the FTC and think that the case was misrepresented.