Bill Would Hurt Debtors, Help Debt Collectors

April 17, 2015

GOP lawmakers have introduced legislation that would reduce the quality and quantity of information that consumers are entitled to in debt-collection lawsuits. It would lessen consumer protections and make the law more favorable to merchants and debt collectors.

The proposals, Assembly Bill 117 and Senate Bill 92, change the pleadings requirements, which stipulate the information merchants or debt collection agencies are required to provide consumers in complaints to collect past-due bill payments or debts.

The legislative proposals would allow creditors who sue consumers to provide only the total amount of the debt they are attempting to collect. Under current law, consumers are allowed to request information about individual transactions or copies of statements that provide more details about the debt they are being sued for.

The legislative proposals also exempt merchants and debt collectors from legal damages, penalties, and attorney fees for failure to comply with the Wisconsin Consumer Act of 1973 unless the consumers can prove that the failure was intentional.

The measures are opposed by Legal Action of Wisconsin, which is a nonprofit law firm that provides free civil and legal services to low-income people in 39 counties. Legal Action says the bills adversely affect consumers who have been hit hard with mounting debt because of the lagging economy.

AB117 and SB92 are sponsored by Republican Sen. Paul Farrow, of Pewaukee, and Rep. Mark Born, of Beaver Dam.

Excluding family, Farrow’s top contributors between January 2010 and Oct. 20, 2014, are David Clark of Waukesha, president of ClarCorp. Industrial Sales, and his wife, Donna, $2,500; George and Susan Mitchell of Whitefish Bay, consultants for School Choice Wisconsin, a pro-school voucher group, $2,500; and Tracy Rath of Pewaukee, owner of Serenade Interiors, and her husband, Patrick, an Aurora Health Care Systems executive, $2,150.

Excluding family, Born’s top contributors between January 2012 and Oct. 20, 2014, are Lindsay Knaup of Beaver Dam, a Wayland Academy employee, and her husband, Clarence, owner of Knaup Homes, $1,600; Kurt Klomberg of Waupun, who is Dodge County district attorney, and his wife, Gloria, $1,350; and Jon Litscher of Beaver Dam, superintendent of Cambria-Friesland Schools, and his wife, Betty, $1,130.