CONSUMER PROTECTION

We protect consumers and individuals against unfair trade and collection practices.

Consumer Protection

Under Section 427.104 of the Wisconsin Consumer Act, a debt collector cannot:

  • Use force or threaten to use force or violence to cause physical harm;

  • Threaten criminal prosecution;

  • Disclose or threaten to disclose information adversely affecting the customer’s reputation for credit worthiness if they know the information is false;

  • Disclose or threaten to disclose information concerning the existence of a debt known to be reasonably disputed by the customer without disclosing the fact that the customer is disputing the debt;

  • Communicate with the customer or person related to the customer with such frequency or at such unusual hours or in any manner that can be reasonably expected to threaten or harass the customer;

  • Engage in other conduct which can reasonably be expected to threaten or harass the customer or a person related to the customer; Use obscene or threatening language in communicating with the customer or a person related to the customer;

  • Claim or attempt or threaten to enforce a right with knowledge or reason to know that the right does not exist;

  • Use a communication which simulates legal or judicial process or which gives the appearance of being authorized, issued or approved by a government, governmental agency or attorney at law when it is not; or

  • threaten action against the customer unless this kind of action is taken in the regular course or is intended with respect to the particular debt.

Illegal Auto Reposessions

Wisconsin Law also provides rights to consumers as well as lenders for automobile loans. In some cases, an automobile repossession (also known as a vehicle replevin) can take place under illegal circumstances. The “repo man” cannot threaten the consumer or take the automobile without the consumer’s consent. If the “repo man” does this, it constitutes an illegal breach of peace.

It is also illegal for a “repo man” to threaten to have the auto owner put in jail, to use profanity, to employ threats or to present himself as a law enforcement officer.

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Truth in Lending Act

The Truth in Lending Act (TILA) requires the lender to disclose certain information to the consumer, particularly information about the interest rate or finance charge for the loan. The TILA requires the lender to have a borrower sign a disclosure statement which states the interest rate and cost of the transaction at the time of the closing. Further, hidden costs are prohibited by the TILA.

Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) defines and prohibits illegal collection actions. It is designed to regulate the actions of creditors and collection agencies to make sure that collection actions do not turn into harassment, and collectors do not engage in illegal collection activity.

If a collector violates a provision of the FDCPA, he or she may be liable for a statutory penalty of $1,000. Also, the FDCPA requires the creditor or collector to pay for the consumer’s legal fees when there is a violation. Congress put this provision in the FDCPA to enable consumers to afford legal representation.

The following is a listing of some of the main types of prohibited collection actions under the FDCPA:

A debt collector may not communicate with the consumer at unusual times or places which are known or should be known to be inconvenient to the consumer. The debt collector shall assume that the convenient time for communicating with a consumer is after 8:00 am and before 9:00 pm if calling the consumer’s residence:

  • A debt collector may not call a consumer if the collector knows the consumer is represented by an attorney with respect to the debt;
  • A debt collector may not call the consumer’s place of employment if the collector knows or has reason to know that the consumer’s employer prohibits such communication;
  • A debt collector may not engage in any harassing, oppressive or abusive conduct with any person in connection with the collection of a debt. This includes, but is not limited to, the use or threat of force, the use of obscene or profane language or continuous phone calls; and
  • A debt collector may not use false, deceptive or misleading representations or means in connection with collection of a debt.

Fair Debt Reporting Act

The Fair Credit Reporting Act sets requirements for Credit Reporting Agencies as well as creditors for maintaining accurate and up to date information on all credit reports. If you have inaccurate information on your credit report, you are entitled to have the Credit Reporting Agency review your file and request verification from any creditor reporting the information to the Agency. Under The Fair Credit Reporting Act, the consumer must call or write to the Agency to request correction on the report. The Agency then has 30 days to review the report and make the necessary corrections or to request verification or corrections from subscriber responsible for the credit information.

The Credit Reporting Agency can be held liable under the Fair Credit Reporting Act for negligently reporting false information. Further, a consumer can maintain an action against a party that negligently or intentionally reports false or misleading information to a Credit Reporting Agency and then fails to take adequate steps to correct the information.