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Rent-to-own businesses won't see relaxed regulations

MADISON (WSAU-Wheeler News)   Wisconsin’s rent-to-own businesses will have to keep following state consumer protection laws, after the Legislature’s finance panel said no to looser regulations. The panel voted 10-to-6 last night to reject Governor Scott Walker’s request to give the industry a break.

The State Supreme Court ruled 20 years ago that rent-to-own contracts are credit transactions, and therefore they must follow state consumer protection disclosures. Republican committee co-chair John Nygren said most states treat rent-to-own contracts like leases. He favored the budget measure, which would have allowed stores to have customers sign contracts in which terms like interest rates and total charges are kept blank until they’re filled in later. Also, enforcement would have been transferred to the state Financial Institutions’ division, with no provision to shut down stores for intentionally violating disclosure laws.

Republican senators joined Democrats in opposing the changes – which the rent-to-own industry has sought for years. West Bend Senate Republican Glenn Grothman was among those saying the businesses prey on the poor. Nygren says there’s a legitimate use for the industry. He noted that Packer players often use rent-to-own contracts to equip their temporary homes in Green Bay during the football season. Nygren promised to bring back the measure as a separate bill later in the current legislative session.

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