Assembly advances bill to exempt rent-to-own companies from consumer protection act


A bill that would exempt rent-to-own companies from the state’s consumer protection act cleared the Assembly 59-35.  

The Republican-authored bill, which backers argued would provided a much-needed update to a state law that was created prior to the inception of rent-to-own businesses, targets companies that rent out furniture, electronics, home appliances and more with the option for consumers to buy the goods at some point.

Still, Dems on the floor today countered that the bill leaves consumers vulnerable and lacking important information on their transaction.

“This is an attack on our consumer protection act,” said Rep. Gary Hebl, D-Sun Prairie. “This bill opens the door for predatory industries to operate in Wisconsin.”

But Republicans such as Rep. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, fired back, arguing that the bill helps out people who want to rent things like furniture. And bill author Rep. Warren Petryk, R-Eleva, argued the bill provides choice and regulatory certainty for small businesses.

The legislation last week cleared an Assembly committee with a sweeping substitute amendment that would require rent-to-own companies to provide annual notice to the Department of Financial Institutions about their locations and pay a fee for each place of business.

A previous version of the bill was introduced in 2011 and cleared the Assembly, but ultimately died in the Senate. A similar provision was also included in the 2013-15 state budget, but the Joint Finance Committee removed it.

The bill now heads to the Senate.