Questions dog Avant on customer satisfaction as growth resumes
Fresh from a $3.9 million settlement that spotlighted borrower horror stories from the past, Avant now faces fresher consumer unhappiness disclosed in a new J.D. The Chicago-based online consumer lender, a few years ago the fastest-growing local startup since Groupon, has made a concerted effort to conduct its business in a low-profile fashion since it hit a rough patch in 2016, resulting in hundreds of layoffs and a reboot of its loan underwriting. Once a "unicorn"—with a valuation of about $2 billion in 2015 when Avant last raised equity—the firm has been a methodical and quiet comeback story since the bubble popped. But that changed April 15 with the filing of a Federal Trade Commission complaint that alleged Avant had overcharged hundreds of borrowers in numerous ways due to the firm's poor systems for handling transactions. The complaint, and resulting $3.9 million settlement, thrust Avant into the unwanted spotlight as an example of the downsides to this new breed of lender serving consumers willing to pay interest rates around 30 percent to consolidate debt or cover surprise expenses.