LITTLE ROCK – The state attorney general’s office sued a Texarkana pawn shop Monday, alleging it charges excessive interest rates on auto-title loans in violation of Arkansas law.
The lawsuit, filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court, alleges Tri-State Pawn of Texarkana, Inc., assessed illegally high interest rates — equivalent to 240 percent annual rate — on auto-title loans made in the state.
An auto-title loan, known as a title pawn, is a short-term, high-interest loan in which the borrower provides the lender with the title and a key to his or her vehicle as collateral for the loan while the borrower retains possession of the vehicle.
"These lending practices and those similar, such as payday loans, are unfair and unconstitutional," Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said in a news release. "These types of loans typically push consumers further into debt."
According to the complaint, Tri-State Pawn in one instance seized the vehicle of a borrower prior to the due date of the borrower’s payment, in addition to charging unlawful interest.
The lawsuit asks the court to order Tri-State Pawn to cease charging and collecting illegal interest, cancel any outstanding illegal debt and pay restitution and civil penalties.
Bill Duffer, the owner of the business, said he was not aware of any legal action against him.
"I didn’t know that I was being sued," Duffer said in a brief telephone interview. He added, "no, sir" when asked if the allegations were true.