Consumer Advocates 5 Worst for 2004 – 2005

As October 2004 marks the end of the fiscal year for many companies, consumer watchdog organization HSBC – Household Watch released their list of the top five companies to watch out for during the holiday shopping season and 2005.

Number 5: Sears – based on the company’s decision to sell existing credit accounts to predatory lender Household International, many consumers found their greatest asset – their homes – tied to one of the nations greatest predatory lenders. This happened at a time when HSBC – Household was embroiled in legal defense and RICO charges were filed against HSBC – Household and H&R Block. Sears also fails to help the consumer through consumer credit counselling programs, and fails to cooperate with debt management. Watch out for Sears as they try to sell their entire credit portfolio in 2005.

Number 4: CitiFinancial – the predatory lending arm of CitiBank. CitiFinancial entered into an agreement with consumer advocacy organization ACORN, but remains steadfast in demanding binding arbitration. It has been reported that binding arbitration allows the company to pay a very small penalty while reaping big rewards and abusing the consumer. CitiFinancial gains additional consideration for the number 4 spot for absorbing another predatory lender – The Associates.

Number 3: Household Finance (HFC) and Beneficial. Although absorbed by HSBC Bank, these two subsidiaries are responsible for more consumer abuses across the United States while under the control of William F. (Bill) Aldinger as CEO than any other mortgage lenders. If you are thinking of a home loan this holiday season or in 2005, get a home equity line of credit (HELOC) from a real company instead. Additional consideration for the number 3 spot involves the fact that testimony in Washington State remains sealed at the request of Houshold – HSBC lawyers, the company is fighting freedom of the press, and the small nationwide settlement of $484 million (USD) did not compensate the borrowers injured by these companies.

Number 2: Best Buy Stores – the nations largest consumer electronics and appliance chain. Best Buy gains the number two position after being sued in two states for shoddy practices such as selling used items and failing to honor rebates. The Best Buy credit card is financed by predatory lender Household International, a wholly owned subdiary of HSBC. HSBC promotes a “Dual application” wherein the borrower is given the option for a Mastercard, but rates are high and proper disclosure of terms are questionable. While the Best Buy card has no annual fee, the Household Mastercard can be as high as $99. Best Buy fails to make that clear to the customer, and many consumers report that Best Buy alters the credit application after the customer leaves the store. Watch out for Best Buy during the holiday season.

Number 1: The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. During 2004 the OCC pushed for national bank charters that would override state and local regulations. The OCC effectively removed predatory lending restrictions that are in place throughout the nation, while stating that banks under their national charter need not comply with laws at the state and local that protect the average American. Banking giant HSBC immediately applied for and received a national charter, bringing wholly owned subsidiary Household International, and their questionable subsidiaries Household Finance Corporation and Beneficial Finance into the OCC’s protection. Every eye in America should be on Sir John Bond and the OCC to see if they can control Bill Aldinger and predatory lender Household International through HSBC North America in 2005. History shows that they cannot.