One Wisconsin Now Blog

Consumer Protection Roundup, Week of Aug. 3 - Aug. 8

This past weekend was a busy one for consumer protection news in Wisconsin. As a part of a new regular installment, I’ll bring you a roundup of the most important news in consumer rights, better business accountability and highlights & lowlights from the view of the consumer.

AG Van Hollen drags feet while CA-based ‘mortgage modification’ company bilks desperate WI homeowners.

A company called 21st Century Legal Services has been working over Wisconsinites trying to stay in their homes by offering a “mortgage modification” service for a flat, up-front fee and then disappearing with the money. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel did an interview with Helen Gibas of South Milwaukee who gave 21st Century $3,500 for a mortgage modification that would lower her interest rate to 4%. Eight months later, Gibas has yet to hear back from 21st Century.

Attorneys General in three states have brought suits against 21st Century for their dishonest business practices, but here in Wisconsin, AG Van Hollen has yet to act. Van Hollen needs to step up to protect vulnerable Wisconsin consumers from predatory companies like 21st Century – but since Van Hollen won’t, we will. Here’s the first official OWN Consumer Alert: DON’T DEAL WITH 21st CENTURY. If you do come into contact with a representative from 21st Century, take their name and call the Wisconsin Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-422-7128 or file a consumer complaint online here.

Payday lenders spending wads of lobbying against regulation.

How many payday lender shops are there in your neighborhood? There are more payday lenders in Wisconsin than there are McDonalds, and Wisconsin is the only state in the nation that doesn’t cap the interest rate payday lenders can charge consumers; the average annual interest rate for a loan originating at a payday lender in Wisconsin in 524%.

Dems in the state Assembly introduced the Payday Lending Consumer Protection Act earlier this summer in an attempt to reign in loan sharks in Wisconsin. Opponents of the bill say that capping the interest rate would “kill” their business in Wisconsin. Given  49 other states have such caps, the payday lending business seems to be doing just fine – or at least fine enough to spend a half million dollars on lobbying against the bill at the State Capitol.

Madison may get federal funds to help low-income people facing rent increases.

From the Wisconsin State Journal:  The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development on Friday issued a statement saying additional money will be released to public housing agencies to help tenants who rely on federal Section 8 vouchers to cover part of their rent.

Financial class, restitution is another route for bad check writers in Milwaukee.

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:  The Milwaukee County district attorney's office has adopted a new program aimed at getting more bad-check writers to make restitution without being prosecuted or referred to a collection agency.

If you see any consumer protection news items you’d like to see covered here, send them to me at robert@onewisconsinnow.org. Until next week remember if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.