Could Lawmakers Open State’s Doors To Rent-To-Own Companies?

Wisconsin's Consumer Act Has Kept Rent-To-Own Operations At Bay

Mike Mozart (CC-BY)

Advocates for the poor are worried the state Legislature will open the door to rent-to-own stores during the final stages of Wisconsin’s budget debate.

Rent-to-own stores let people rent products like electronics or furniture with the option of eventually buying them. The stores don’t operate in Wisconsin because the state’s Consumer Act forces them to disclose their interest rates, which can run more than 200 percent.

However, there’s talk that lawmakers could change that in the budget. That worries John Huebscher with the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, who said the stores prey on the poor.

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“Our charities’ agencies and our St. Vincent Depaul folks view these as very serious and problematic for needy families,” said Huebscher.

Lawmakers defeated a rent-to-own proposal last session, but it’s unclear how the current Legislature might vote with so many new faces. Rent-to-own advocates say the stores fill a need for low-income consumers.