Sunday, May 15, 2005

WARNING: Beware Of Rent-A-Center

Rent-A-Center is one of those companies that has been accused of preying on the poor. It's practices are perfectly legal in most states due to widespread support from congressional Republicans. Journalist Anya Schiffrin in the May/June 2005 edition of Mother Jones states "Situated in mostly poor neighborhoods, this chain's 2,000 stores offer big-ticket items like furniture and electronics to millions of people with no credit. Hiking up prices and charging exorbitant interest, using a scheme critics have called "pay now, pay later," the company racks up sales in the billions and is a key player in what one market research firm calls "the poverty market" This company targets credit-needy consumers with sales practices that inflate the actual cost of their merchandise. Their prices were inflated as much as 225 percent according to The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs in 2001. Damley Stewart is an attorney who is championing a class action suit against Rent-A-Center. According to Stewart "Rent-A-Center explicitly targets poor, largely minority neighborhoods and has no qualms about selling a cheap television for $700 to people who can't afford it. Stewart says the company uses a high pressure sales scheme. This is not the only time the company has been taken to court. Miraculousy Rent-A-Center has yet to be convicted. Even though the company has numerous lawsuits reaching as high as 256 million dollars, the company is in the red by a huge margin with earnings reaching 2.3 billion in sales and 183 million in profits. Only four states, Vermont, Wisconsin, Minnesota and New Jersey have shielded their citizens from Rent-A-Center with specific state laws that prohibit deceptive business practices, but Rent-A-Center with the help of former House Republican leader Dick Armey(who is a Rent-A-Center board member) is trying very hard to overturn the laws in those states. The African-American and Hispanic communities in poor areas are also victims of environmental racism, predatory lending in addition to unequal treatment in hospitals and increased housing discrimination. These predators thrive on the fact that the news media doesn't carry these stories and if you don't know that there is a problem how can you fight against it? The 109th Congress has been adept at looking the other way when it comes to these racist complaints of abuse, in fact many congress members (predominantly Republican, but not exclusively) have been identified as collaborators of those entities of alleged abuse. One name that immediately comes to mind are Representative Walter Jones (R-N.C). The sole purpose of this article is to make you aware. Tell your friends, neighbors and relatives to be very wary of "renting" or purchasing anything from this company until it can clear its name. Spread the word

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