Debt Collectors Have Walker in Their Pocket

February 23, 2016

Pocket Money

A Republican bill that favors debt collectors is before Republican Gov. Scott Walker. He and GOP legislators hauled in more than $30,000 from the debt collection and credit reporting industry over the past five years.

The measure, Assembly Bill 117, was approved on a party line vote by the Senate last week and by the Assembly last November.

The bill changes so-called pleadings requirements, which specify the information that merchants and debt collectors are required to provide consumers before they can collect past-due bill payments or debts. AB117 would allow creditors who sue consumers to provide only the total amount of debt they are attempting to collect. Under current law, consumers are allowed to request information about individual transactions or receive statements that provide more detail about the debt.

The measure also exempts merchants and debt collectors from legal damages, penalties, and attorney fees for failing to comply with the Wisconsin Consumer Act of 1973 unless consumers can prove that their failure to follow the law was intentional.

The measure drew support from debt collectors.

The debt collection and credit reporting industry contributed about $31,000 to Walker and Republican legislators between January 2011 and June 2015.

The top contributors from the debt collection industry, who gave their money to Walker between January 2011 and June 2015, were: Joel Kunza, of Ham Lake, Minn., an executive with National Recoveries Inc., and Eric Green, of Dallas, Tex., chief executive officer of Real Time Resolutions, $5,000 each; and Kathy Howerton, of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., owner of ARS National Services, $3,500.

The bill was chiefly opposed by the State Bar of Wisconsin, Legal Action of Wisconsin, which is a nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services to low-income people, and consumer advocate WISPIRG.