Major consumer financing firm Acom Co. is suspected of applying illegally high interest rates on delinquent loans it took over from affiliated lenders, sources said Sunday.

Rates imposed by Acom on the loans, which came mainly from regional banks under debt-guarantee contracts, are higher than the maximum 14.6 percent rate allowed under the Consumer Contract Law, the sources said.

An Acom official argued the company’s practice is not illegal because the rates are lower than the 29.2 percent set under the Interest Rate Restrictions Law as the ceiling penalty rate for delinquent loans.

Experts say the Consumer Contract Law should be applied to rates for delinquent loans taken over from other lenders. The Acom official said the company will confirm whether there are problems with its rates under the Consumer Contract Law.

In tieups with Acom, 14 companies are providing loans with interest rates of 10 percent to 20 percent. Loans taken over from 10 of the 14 are carrying the illegally high rates, the sources said.

Nine of the 10 are regional banks, including Hokkaido Bank, Suruga Bank, Juroku Bank, Hiroshima Bank and Nishi-Nippon City Bank, as well as Cash One Ltd., a card loan joint venture between Acom and the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ.

If the borrowers fail to repay loans to the 14 firms as scheduled, Acom repays the loans in their place and then goes after the debtors.

By tying up with Acom, the 14 companies can reduce default risks while the consumer financing firm can earn commission fees.

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