Online parody ads leverage social media as Check 'n Go refund push enters final 60 days
$4.3 million refund drive continues approach S.F. City Attorney used with 'Pay Me Maybe' viral video to reach eligible claimants
SAN FRANCISCO (Feb. 6, 2013) -- A series of banner ads that parody ubiquitous web advertising by leading online lender Check 'n Go launched today as part of an aggressive social media outreach push aimed at identifying and educating Check 'n Go borrowers in California who may be entitled to significant refunds for interest, fees and finance charges. The statewide refund program is among the settlement terms negotiated by San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera to resolve his consumer protection lawsuit against the Cincinnati-based payday lender, which agreed to commit a total of $4.3 million in restitution to California borrowers who obtained online loans between Nov. 2006 and June 2008. The outreach program recently entered its final 60-days before the March 28 deadline for eligible borrowers to file their claims for refunds, which are expected to range from as little as $20 to more than $4,600 for each eligible claimant.
The satirical online banner ad campaign offers a pro-consumer twist on Check 'n Go's familiar web-based marketing, skewering the payday lenders' exorbitantly high interest rates and fees, positing questions like, "Feeling Bitter About Your Payday Lender?" and urging borrowers to "Get Refunded." Though the parody ads will be carried with a limited paid buy on targeted websites over the next few weeks, Herrera's office hopes the vast majority of online "click-throughs" will be driven by its statewide network of more than 160 community partners -- including consumer activists, advocacy organizations and elected leaders -- through their own websites and social media channels. The ads link visitors to the outreach program's website, which includes downloadable claim forms, and are available on the outreach program's website at http://www.caloanrefund.org/help. A side-by-side comparison of the parody ads and their original counterparts is available online at: http://www.sfcityattorney.org/modules/showdocument.aspx?documentid=1124.
"All of the Check 'n Go borrowers eligible for refunds obtained their loans online, so it only makes sense to focus our outreach efforts online, too," said Herrera. "Check 'n Go committed $4.3 million in refunds for eligible borrowers as part of our settlement agreement, and we're doing everything we can to maximize restitution for those who deserve it. That's why we're taking this creative approach and employing social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and organizational websites to spread the word. We know it takes a creative approach to locate and fully educate eligible borrowers who may have moved, or who may ignore legal notices they received from the claims administrator. We hope this outreach effort matches the success we saw with our Money Mart/Loan Mart refund drive last year."
A previous three-month outreach push that targeted Money Mart and Loan Mart borrowers last year employed a highly successful viral video whose "Pay Me Maybe" lyrics were set to the tune of Carly Rae Jepsen's catchy hit song, "Call Me Maybe." The online video offered a clever send-up of one of last year's most oft-repeated Internet memes, while effectively spreading the message about a similar consumer loan refund program for borrowers who were overcharged on loan interest rates. The Money Mart/Loan Mart effort netted more than $5.5 million for more than 8,100 eligible claimants statewide, with restitution payments averaging nearly $700.
Both the Check 'n Go and Money Mart/Loan Mart efforts arose out of litigation that Herrera's Consumer Protection Unit filed on April 26, 2007. Herrera alleged in his complaint that Check 'n Go engaged in an illicit "rent-a-bank" scheme to skirt the California law limiting allowable annual interest rates for those types of loan to no more than 36 percent. According to records Herrera's office obtained before and during the course of litigation, Check 'n Go made online installment loans to California consumers with interest rates as high as 400 percent -- far in excess of what state law allows -- as late as June 2008. Check 'n Go denied wrongdoing in agreeing to settle the case.
Check 'n Go claimants may be qualified for restitution if they obtained a four-month installment loan online between Nov. 2006 and June 2008 through the websites: checkngo.com, ilp.fbdel.com, and commandloans.com. To be eligible for repayment, borrowers must mail a claim form and a copy of the required form of identification to the settlement administrator, postmarked by March 28, 2013. Herrera is urging potential claimants who think they may be qualified for restitution to visit, email or call for more information:
- (Toll Free) 1-855-581-2350
The litigation involving the Check 'n Go loan settlement is: People of the State of California ex rel. Dennis Herrera v. Check N' Go of California, Inc., et al. (San Francisco Superior Court Case No. CGC-07-462779).
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