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Groups oppose legislation that could make rent-to-own deals less transparent



The rent-to-own industry is, again, trying to make a dent in some consumer protection laws in Wisconsin.

A bill that’s surfaced before would be bad news for consumers who do business with rent-to-own stores, according to Peter Skopec, director at Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group (WISPIRG).

“We’re one of the few states that has really strong protections against predatory behavior toward rent-to-own companies,” Skopec said. “We’re concerned because this bill would weaken a lot of those protections.”

Several groups oppose the measure that would, among other things, do away with the requirement that rent-to-own companies disclose the amount of interest customers can wind up paying over the length of a rental contract. Interest that can grow to hundreds of percentage points.

“They have a track record of misrepresenting information and misrepresenting the true costs of rent-to-own agreements,” Skopec said.

WISPIRG’s evaluation is that secrecy becomes a little easier for those companies with this legislation. Skopec says the measure helps rent-to-owns duck provisions of the state’s Consumer Protection Act.

The bill would weaken consumer protection in rent-to-own agreements — not that those agreements are ever really good, Skopec points out.

“This is a really expensive way to purchase merchandise and that is why it’s important that we have transparency and strong consumer protections in that marketplace, too,” he said.

The new rules would make it harder for consumers to see just how much more they pay under a rental agreement, as compared to current disclosure rules.

“It’s really important that those disclosures stay in place because it’s the simplest way and most understandable way those consumers have to compare products and figure out what’s the best way to purchase a product,” Skopec said.

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