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Consumer lender Acom Co. said Monday it will lower interest charges on delinquent loans it has taken over from other lenders under debt-guarantee contracts.

Critics say rates charged by Acom on the delinquent loans are illegally high because they range from about 17 percent to 26 percent, higher than the maximum 14.6 percent rate allowed under the Consumer Contract Law.

Acom officials have said the charges are not illegal because the rates are lower than the 29.2 percent allowed for delinquent loans under the Interest Rate Restrictions Law.

But the Cabinet Office says the Consumer Contract Law should in principle apply to rates charged for delinquent loans taken over from other lenders, as Acom has done in this case.

In tieups with Acom, 14 companies are currently offering consumer loans at rates of 10 percent to 20 percent. Loans assumed by Acom from 10 of the 14 firms have rates above 14.6 percent, according to industry sources.

The 10 lenders comprise nine regional banks — including Hokkaido Bank, Suruga Bank, Juroku Bank, Hiroshima Bank and Nishi-Nippon City Bank — and Cash One Ltd., a card loan joint venture between Acom and Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ.

If borrowers fail to repay their loans on time, Acom pays off the debt and collects from the borrowers at higher rates of interest.

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