Household settlement deadline approaches
Seattle Times consumer affairs reporter
Time is running out for thousands of Washington consumers who received notices that they were eligible for restitution under the state's $21 million settlement with Household International.
Entitled are more than 12,000 Washington borrowers who secured loans from Household retail branches, such as Household Finance and Beneficial Finance, between Jan. 1, 1999, and Sept. 20, 2002, and were harmed by predatory lending practices. They have until Oct. 14 to file a claim.
As of Sept. 28 — the latest figures available from the state Attorney General's office — 8,164 residents, or 66 percent, had filed by signing releases in which they promised not to sue Household in exchange for the settlement money. That leaves more than 4,000 who have not joined.
Restitution payments to Washington consumers will range from $11.37 to $25,863.76, depending on the size of the loan and the extent to which customers were harmed. The actual amount will also depend on the participation rate, with any unclaimed money redistributed to everyone who does participate.
The compensation is part of a $484 million national settlement affecting nearly 500,000 borrowers. The deal was reached last fall with Household, one of the country's top lenders in the "sub prime" market, meaning it targeted consumers with blemished credit histories.
In addition to the money, the settlement included provisions to end predatory loan practices such as misrepresenting the true terms of a loan, inserting onerous "prepayment" penalties to get out of loans and failing to disclose important information to consumers.
Some consumers may be choosing not to participate because they would rather pursue claims in court. A number of would-be class-action lawsuits were active against Household, including a Seattle federal court case now pending at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Peter Lewis: 206-464-2217 or email@example.com
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