Rent-To-Own PC Records User after 'Missed' Payment

Dennis Faas's picture

A company that rents both furniture and PCs has been accused of spying on its customers. A lawsuit alleges Aaron's Inc remotely accessed a spy camera on a PC to take a shot of a customer using it.

No Disclosure of Spy Software

The claims arose in a case involving a customer who had taken a computer from Aaron's Inc on a rent-to-own agreement. That allows a customer to pay a monthly fee for a set period: after this period they own it outright, but before then they can also simply return it and stop paying.

In the case of customer Brian Byrd, Aaron's believed he had stopped paying (which appears to be an administrative error) and sent a store manager to collect the computer. Byrd claims that when he showed a payment receipt to the manager, he responded by showing a picture of Byrd taken by the camera's webcam.

According to Byrd, the manager refused to say where the picture came from and said he was not officially supposed to disclose its existence to customers, a comment that Byrd interpreted as meaning the manager was trying to intimidate him into handing over the computer.

Keystroke Logger Among Spying Techniques, says Customer

After contacting the police, Byrd put together a lawsuit.

Byrd says the computer turned out to include a product known as PC Rental Agent, which he says includes both hardware and software designed to track a computer's use and location. The lawsuit claims that as well as tracking a computer that a customer has refused to return, the software also takes screenshots and even logs keystrokes. (Source:

There are three main complaints in the lawsuit: 1) customers weren't warned about the system; 2) the data collected was excessive for its valid purposes; and 3) Byrd had already paid off the machine in full, meaning he owned it outright and Aaron's had no right to use the system any more.

Byrd is looking to make this a class action case, meaning others in a similar position could automatically join the case and share in any damages award.

Unclear Who's the Spy

It is notable that the website of Designerware, the manufacturers of PC Rental Agent, makes no mention of any spying-related features or location tracking.

It details the product simply as locking down access to the machine when the customer has fallen behind on payments. It's possible therefore that if Byrd's claims about his machine are true, that Aaron's put additional software on the machine as well as PC Rental Agent. (Source:

Neither Aaron's nor Designerware had made any comment on the case at the time of writing.

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