Justice Department Settles With Texas Based Furniture and Appliances Chain for Charging Servicemembers Excess Interest
September 15, 2020
The Justice Department reached an agreement today with Conn Credit I, LP, Conn Appliances, Inc. and Conn’s, Inc. (Conn’s), to resolve allegations that they violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) by charging at least 184 servicemembers excess interest on their purchases.
Conn’s, a furniture, mattress, electronics, and appliance store chain headquartered in the Woodlands, Texas, has retail stores in over 130 locations in at least 14 states. This is the Justice Department’s first SCRA case against a consumer retail store.
The SCRA provides financial and housing protections and benefits to military members as they enter active duty. One of the SCRA’s benefits requires creditors to reduce the interest rate on financial obligations, including retail installment contracts, to six percent if certain conditions are met. Under the agreement, Conn’s must hire an independent consultant, who will determine if any previously unidentified servicemembers were overcharged interest. Conn’s must refund all overcharged interest that it has not already refunded and pay an additional $500 to each affected servicemember. Conn’s must also make a $50,000 payment to the United States.
The agreement, which is subject to court approval, resolves a suit filed today by the Department of Justice in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.
“Servicemembers sacrifice their liberty and at times their lives to protect the United States and our people, and the Department of Justice is determined to ensure that they receive all the benefits and rights that Congress provided to them under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division. “We applaud Conn’s for cooperating with our investigation and conducting a self-audit to determine the scope of the problem, for working with the department to comply with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, and for agreeing to compensate all the affected servicemembers.”
“It is an honor to protect the legal rights of the members of our armed forces who routinely sacrifice so much for our country,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick of the Southern District of Texas. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to enforcing the SCRA and will continue to hold companies who violate it accountable.”
The department launched its investigation after receiving a referral from the U.S. Army Staff Judge Advocate at the Oklahoma National Guard Joint Force Headquarters. Upon receiving notice of the department’s investigation, Conn’s conducted a self-audit and found that, between March 2014 and May 2019, in 184 of the 322 accounts where servicemembers had requested the six percent interest rate cap, Conn’s had not granted the full benefit as required by the SCRA. Conn’s voluntarily disclosed these findings to the department and sent remediation checks and credited the accounts of the identified servicemembers.
The department’s enforcement of the SCRA is conducted by the Civil Rights Division’s Housing and Civil Enforcement Section and U.S. Attorney’s Offices throughout the country. Since 2011, the department has obtained over $474 million in monetary relief for over 120,000 servicemembers through its enforcement of the SCRA. For more information about the department’s SCRA enforcement efforts, please visit www.servicemembers.gov.
Servicemembers and their dependents who believe that their rights under SCRA have been violated should contact the nearest Armed Forces Legal Assistance Program Office. Office locations may be found at legalassistance.law.af.mil/.