5 On Your Side

Discount retailer must forgive debt, repair credit of NC service members

Posted October 4, 2016 6:19 p.m. EDT
Updated October 4, 2016 6:58 p.m. EDT

— Millions of dollars in debt relief is coming to soldiers impacted by USA Discounters.

The company, which was previously investigated by WRAL Investigates due to multiple complaints about inflated pricing and aggressive debt collection, also operated as USA Living and sold everything from jewelry to electronics to furniture.

Stores were located near military bases nationwide, including Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune, and charged what many considered inflated prices and exorbitant fees.

Former Fort Bragg Staff Sgt. Chris Trill paid $5,000 for furniture and a TV but with added fees and finance charges, the contract totaled $10,513.88.

When customers couldn’t pay, USA Living filed lawsuits in Virginia, where it is headquartered. Many customers couldn’t get there for court dates, so the company won the right to deduct payments from purchasers’ paychecks.

As part of a multi-state settlement, the company, which declared bankruptcy last year, will pay $7.3 million to help clear debts and repair credit of more than 4,300 North Carolina customers, including 2,000 service members.

By mid-November, USA Discounters must also:

  • Waive account balances for customers whose last contract was dated June 1, 2012, or earlier
  • Apply a $100 credit to all accounts for contracts dated after June 1, 2012
  • Clear negative items related to the financing agreements from consumers’ credit reports
  • Write off all judgments not obtained in the correct state
  • Give service members who were ordered to pay judgments to USA Discounters in the correct state a credit worth 50 percent of the original judgment amount.

An investigation by the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office found that USA Discounters targeted military consumers with advertisements that promised that service members, veterans and government employees would never be denied credit. The investigation also found that the company used abusive debt collection tactics, including contacting the military chain of command about the debt of a service member, which could cause them to lose security clearances or result in demotion.

On Tuesday, Trill said he ended up filing for bankruptcy but is now working to go to law school and is thrilled with the development.

North Carolinians who believe they are eligible for relief as part of the settlement are asked to email the Attorney General’s Office at UsADsettlement@ncdoj.gov or call 1-877-566-7226. Consumers should include their USA Discounters account number and the 11-digit number found on contracts with the company.

The USA Discounters account number can be obtained by contacting the corporate office at 1-800-583-5515.