Honda’s U.S. auto finance unit agrees to pay $25 million in loan case

WASHINGTON (Bloomberg) — American Honda Finance Corp. agreed to pay up to $25 million to settle U.S. claims that minority borrowers were overcharged for auto loans.

The Honda unit that finances auto loans in the U.S. will offer $24 million in relief for borrowers who were allegedly overcharged by dealers since 2011, according to a settlement filed today by the Justice Department and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in federal court in Los Angeles. An additional $1 million will be spent on consumer education programs.

The Justice Department alleges that Honda violated fair-lending laws by allowing dealers to charge higher interest rates on loans sought by African-American, Hispanic and Asian borrowers.

The average African-American borrower paid about $250 more for the loan than a white borrower, the Justice Department alleged in its complaint. Hispanics paid $200 more while Asian and Pacific Islander borrowers victim paid $150 more during the term of the loan, the U.S. said.

Honda said it has treated all borrowers fairly and is agreeing to settle in order to avoid litigation, according to the consent order.

Honda “strongly opposes any form of discrimination, and we expect our dealers to uphold this principle as well,” American Honda Finance said in a statement. “We firmly believe that our lending practices have been fair and transparent.”

Honda doesn’t originate auto loans, though it purchases loans originated by dealers. The markup at issue in the case involves the difference between Honda’s buy rate and contract rate. The settlement requires approval from a federal judge.

The case is U.S. v. American Honda Finance Corp., 15- cv-05264, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).

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