For Immediate Release: September 18, 2002
For More Information: Ed Mierzwinski, Liz Hitchcock, U.S. PIRG (202)

Statement of U.S. PIRG Consumer Program Director Ed Mierzwinski On House
Passage of HR 1701, Legislation Immunizing Predatory Rent-to-Own Industry
From Strong State Consumer Laws

"Today's House vote to immunize the rent to own industry from strong state
consumer laws is a vote against consumers, states' rights and corporate
responsibility. We're disappointed that so many members of the House
listened to the hordes of industry lobbyists instead of to their state
Attorneys General and voted to make weak law the law of the land.

It's a vote against states rights because the bill's purported consumer
protections largely duplicate laws that already exist in 46 states and are
intended as a Trojan Horse to cloak the bill's actual intent to preempt the
stronger laws in the other four states: Minnesota, New Jersey, Wisconsin and

It's a vote against consumers because the bill takes away stronger laws that
subject the industry to usury ceilings, APR disclosures and other consumer

It's a vote against corporate responsibility because the Congress is passing
this bill at the request of two companies, Rentway and Rent-A-Center, with a
sordid history of corporate irresponsibility. Rent-Way is under SEC and DOJ
investigation after a questionable $98 million restatement of its books.
Rent-A-Center recently paid a $49 million settlement after the US EEOC
intervened on behalf of women employees in a sex discrimination case.
Rent-A-Center is in litigation with Wisconsin over thousands of violations
of state consumer law. In 2001, Rent-A-Center was found by the New York City
Department of Consumer Affairs to have committed 310 violations of city
consumer law.

We're disappointed in the House vote, and hope that consumers get a more
fair deal in the Senate.


For detailed background on the rent to own industry, letters from opponents
and an analysis of its $3.9 million campaign to enact this legislation, see

U.S. PIRG is the national lobbying office for the State Public Interest
Research Groups. State PIRGs are non-profit, non-partisan public interest
advocacy groups.