Aaron's Inc. Sued Over Computer Spyware Allegations

Aaron's Inc. and its franchisees can secretly monitor "rent-to-own" computer customers' electronic communications in violation of federal privacy and technology laws, a Wyoming couple alleged in a class action lawsuit filed May 3 in federal court in Pittsburgh.

Brian and Crystal Byrd, of Casper, Wyo., allege the "rent-to-own" laptop computer they paid off ahead of schedule in October 2010 was wrongly listed as in default by Aaron's. The lawsuit asserts that an Aaron's representative appeared at the Byrds' home on Dec. 22, 2010 to repossess the computer and showed the family an unauthorized web-camera image of Mr. Byrd using the computer at home. A subsequent investigation by local law enforcement confirmed the electronic surveillance activity, the lawsuit alleges.

The Byrds are represented by Jamieson & Robinson LLC, of Casper, Wyo.; HermanGerel LLP, of Atlanta; The Spence Law Firm, of Jackson, Wyo.; and Levin, Fishbein, Sedran and Berman, of Philadelphia.

The defendants include Aaron's Inc., of Atlanta; Aspen Way Enterprises Inc., d/b/a Aaron's Sales and Leasing; and DesignerWare LLC, of North East, Pa.

According to the complaint, "It has been the practice and policy of the Aaron's Defendants to conceal from their customers their ability to remotely access, intercept and monitor customers' private, personal electronic communications, information, screen shots, keystrokes or images captured on webcams and to further disclose to consumers exactly the kinds of private information and images that can be and were routinely collected, transmitted and stored."

The legal team for the Byrds will seek to have the lawsuit certified as a class action to obtain injunctive relief and damages for all customers of the Aaron's defendants who reside in the United States, who have purchased, leased, rented or rented to own, Aaron's computers and people whose electronic communications and/or images were intercepted, accessed, monitored and/or transmitted by the defendants without the customer's authorization.

The case is "Brian Byrd and Crystal Byrd, et al., v. Aaron's Inc., et al.," Civil No. 11-CV-101 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

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