SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Esmeralda Swartz, Kevin Jackson

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Check 'n Go borrowers eligible for $4.3 million in refunds in three-month statewide drive

Outreach effort to ID and educate eligible claimants in California resulted from S.F. City Attorney's Consumer Protection Unit lawsuit

SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 27, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- A three-month outreach effort aimed at identifying and educating Check 'n Go borrowers whose online installment loans at excessive interest rates may entitle them to significant repayments for interest, fees and finance charges launched today with a press announcement in San Francisco City Hall.  The 90-day refund program, which will include events with consumer advocates and elected leaders throughout California, is among the terms of an agreement San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera negotiated with the payday lender last June to settle litigation filed in 2007 by Herrera's Consumer Protection Unit. 

San Francisco's civil action alleged that the Cincinnati-based Check 'n Go engaged in an illicit "rent-a-bank" scheme aimed at skirting California's maximum allowable annual interest rate of no more than 36 percent for that type of loan.  According to records obtained before and during the course of the litigation, Check 'n Go made online installment loans to California consumers with interest rates as high as 400 percent—far in excess of what state law allows—as late as June 2008. 

Though Check 'n Go acknowledged no wrongdoing in agreeing to the settlement, the company agreed to commit $4.3 million toward restitution to borrowers who obtained online loans between Nov. 2006 and June 2008.  Refunds expected to range from $20 to more than $4,600 for each eligible claimant. 

"The strongest statement we can make against predatory lending in California is to maximize restitution for every borrower who deserves it," said Herrera.  "That's why this outreach push for eligible Check 'n Go borrowers is so important, and it's why we intend to work so hard with community partners and elected leaders throughout California to make it a success.  Under our settlement agreement, Check 'n Go has committed $4.3 million for refunds for eligible borrowers—but they need only make a 'reasonable effort' to notify their borrowers.  We know from experience that it often takes an extra effort to locate and fully educate eligible borrowers who may have moved, or who may reasonably ignore arcane legal notices from an unknown claims administrator.  We intend to work tirelessly over the next three months to get the word out to consumers about their rights, and to identify as many potential claimants as possible.  We hope this outreach effort for Check 'n Go borrowers matches the success we saw with Money Mart/Loan Mart earlier this year.  Together, they should send a strong message to financial institutions about the need to adhere to lawful lending practices in California."

A prior three-month outreach drive earlier this year targeting Money Mart and Loan Mart borrowers partnered with elected officials, consumer advocacy groups, community, faith and labor organizations statewide netted more than $5.5 million that is currently in the process of being paid to more than 8,100 eligible claimants.  The average restitution payment obtained in the Money Mart/Loan Mart efforts was nearly $700.

Both the Check 'n Go and Money Mart/Loan Mart efforts arose out of litigation that Herrera's Consumer Protection Unit filed on April 26, 2007.  That civil action named the payday lenders and an associated out-of-state bank for unlawful, unfair and fraudulent business practices stemming from short-term installment loans (typically marketed to low-income borrowers) at unlawful interest rates.  In addition to Check 'n Go and Money Mart/Loan Mart, the original lawsuit named Wilmington, Del.-based First Bank of Delaware as a defendant for aiding and abetting the predatory lending schemes.  Herrera's complaint alleged that Check 'n Go offered installment loans of up to $1,500, with annual percentage rates exceeding 300 percent, through a questionable arrangement with First Bank of Delaware, in a deliberate effort to circumvent California's interest rate and loan principal limits.

Check 'n Go claimants may be qualified for restitution if they obtained a four-month installment loan online between Nov. 2006 and June 2008 through the websites: checkngo.com, ilp.fbdel.com, and commandloans.com.  To be eligible for repayment, borrowers must mail a claim form and a copy of the required form of identification to the settlement administrator, postmarked by March 28, 2013.

Herrera is urging potential claimants who think they may be qualified for restitution to visit, email or call for more information:

The litigation involving the Check 'n Go loan settlement is: People of the State of California ex rel. Dennis Herrera v. Check N' Go of California, Inc., et al. (San Francisco Superior Court Case No. CGC-07-462779).

SOURCE City Attorney Dennis Herrera

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