A new lawsuit has targeted subprime auto lender Santander Consumer USA, accusing the company of “incessantly calling consumers” and charging them improper fees should they fall behind on their loans.
On Jan. 14, attorneys with the firm of Edelson P.C., of Chicago, filed the complaint in Cook County Circuit Court against Dallas-based Santander. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a group of 10 named plaintiffs from nine states. However, none of the plaintiffs are from Illinois.
The complaint says the plaintiffs believe the lawsuit belongs in Cook County court because Santander “does business throughout this County, the State of Illinois, and the United States.”
Plaintiffs named in the action include: Quiana Bankhead, of Alabama; Joseph Bowden, of Nevada; Coretta Branch, of Mississippi; Lee Griffin, of Texas; Eugene Hooks, of Arkansas; Kerry Leegan, of Arizona; Kellee Lehman of North Carolina; Donavan Rogers, of Kansas; Michael Sapp, of Georgia; and Rosalind Sapp, of Georgia.
The lawsuit centers on Santander’s alleged debt collection efforts.
The complaint notes Santander “services and attempts to collect” on loans it owns, as well as loans held by other lenders. The complaint asserted many of those financed through Santander did so under duress, “locked into” the financing relationship through car dealers who provided no alternative financing options.
The complaint asserts “88% of (Santander’s) auto loan portfolio consists of subprime receivables from consumers who do not qualify for conventional consumer finance products…”
“… The debtors that Santander targets and attempts to collect from, whether it or a third party owns the debt, are often in unstable circumstances where they are relatively more susceptible to harassment, oppression, and abuse,” the complaint said.
The complaint accuses Santander of “placing thousands of unsolicited, harassing telephone calls to consumers … who allegedly owed a debt” to Santander, and despite allegedly never receiving permission from the consumers to call them on their wireless phones.
The complaint asserts Santander acquired those numbers through other means, including database searches known as “skip tracing” and “number trapping,” in which consumers’ phone numbers are captured and stored for later use when consumers call in to Santander.
The complaint further asserts Santanders’ calls were robocalls, automatically generated by a predictive dialer program.
The complaint further accuses Santander’s representatives of harassment, and using “obscene, profane and abusive language” when attempting to collect.
And the complaint accuses Santander of “collecting money” from consumers, including “interest, late fees, convenience fees, processing fees, online or over-the-phone payment fees,” and others which the plaintiffs allege aren’t allowed under the terms of their contract or the law.
The complaint alleges Santander’s calls violated the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
The plaintiffs have asked the court to award unspecified actual and statutory damages, attorney fees and other relief.