Santander Consumer USA never responded to a letter sent from 32 members of Congress criticizing alleged “discriminatory” practices at the lender’s call centers, Representative Ruben Gallego (D-AZ 7th District) told Auto Finance News.
Congressional leaders concerned about workers’ rights got involved when customer service and collections workers at the bank’s call centers began petitioning to form a union and voicing their opinion on capitol hill. Their complaints alleged predatory lending practices at Santander Consumer as well as issues with the voice recording and artificial intelligence system named CallMiner that is used to determine incentive pay.
In a statement to AFN, Santander admitted that there have been issues with the system, which are being addressed. Namely, the employees said the system struggles to recognize female voices or workers that speak English as a second language. At the start of the year, Santander stopped using the system to determine incentive pay but continues to use CallMiner on the backend.
A Santander spokeswoman told AFN that the Congressional letter did not influence the company’s decision to change the program, which was in the process of being revamped prior to the letter. Still, Gallego said he is seeking a response.
“We’re very happy that they stopped it,” Gallego said. “We want to see further steps taken forward to make sure there aren’t further policies creating an environment where people feel discriminated or adversely affected by technology or management policies. I’d like them to check-in in a couple of months to see if there has been positive change in their shop.”
The biggest change many employees would like to see is the ability to dispute the CallMiner log when it hears something wrong and correct the scorecard, one anonymous customer service employee told AFN.
“We can review it but it’s not a dispute, because if you can dispute something that means it can be changed,” she said. “We can listen to it, and we can plead our case, but yet it’s not disputable. It’s not like, ‘OK I hear you, I’m going to give you another percentage point on your scorecard,’ it’s not that type of thing. It doesn’t mean anything.”
The CallMiner score was the largest determining factor on employee scorecards, she said. Although she speaks “a little more clearly than others,” even she had undisputable infractions on her scorecard that impacted incentive pay. “Some have it worse than I do,” she added.
The Congressman is also concerned about claims of predatory lending practices that have been levied against the company. Santander denies these allegations and says it has taken steps to remediate past behavior, AFN has previously reported.
“We really want to see policies that encourage auto ownership, responsible loan making, responsible decisions being made with credit and not having it done in such a manner that ends up being predatory in nature for these consumers,” Gallego said. “Obviously, people need car loans and there is a big market for that and [subprime lenders] should engage in that, but they should not bank on people going into repossession as a profit model.”
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