Millions coming to NC residents victimized by bad car loans

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- More than $20 million in relief money is coming to consumers here in North Carolina who used an auto lender that was at the center of a multistate investigation. However, right now, it's a waiting game to see when that money will get to consumers.

Nicole Edwards is one of those consumers waiting and hoping to get relief.

"Definitely has been impacting my credit," she said.

For years, Edwards said a car loan that she defaulted on has affected her credit. When she bought a car, it was financed through Santander, the nation's largest subprime auto financing company.

"I don't think we should have gotten approved for the loan," she said.

Edwards said that for two years, she struggled to make the monthly car payments, eventually, the car was repossessed after she fell behind on payments. To this day, she said it still affects her credit.

"This is 90 percent that's on my credit that is pulling me down," Edwards said.

Edwards is not alone. A coalition of 34 state attorneys general, including North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein alleged Santander violated consumer protection laws by exposing consumers to unnecessarily high levels of risk and knowingly placing these consumers into auto loans with a high probability of default.

The investigation started in March 2015 and just wrapped with a settlement of $55 million in relief to consumers.

"Twenty-two million is going to come back to NC consumers who have received misrepresentations at the time that they received their car loans," Stein said.

Stein added that Santander preyed on at-risk consumers and ruined their credit. Besides paying millions in the settlement moving forward, Santander will change its lending practices.

Santander said it fully cooperated in the investigation and during the past several years, has strengthened its risk management across the board -- improving policies and procedures to identify and prevent dealer misconduct, and tightening standards to ensure affordability.

When it comes to who gets a piece of the millions coming to North Carolina consumers, Stein said, "we will get the customer list from the company and reach out to those people."

Edwards hopes she is one of those consumers as she would like to improve her credit.

If you were a victim of Santander, Stein encourages you to reach out to his office, as even if you don't get part of the settlement money, they do have ways to help clean up your credit. You can find that information here.

Also, a settlement administrator has been appointed to handle how the money will be distributed to consumers. Though it is still early in the process you can find more information here.
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