A bill that would deregulate the rent-to-own industry in Wisconsin was rejected by a state Senate panel on Wednesday, which could derail its chances of becoming law this legislative session.
The plan failed on a 4-5 vote in the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Small Business and Tourism, with state Sen. Jerry Petrowski, R-Marathon, joining the panel's four Democrats in voting against it.
Rent-to-own stores let customers rent products like televisions or washing machines with an option to purchase them. While they exist in Wisconsin now, they're far more common in other states where the laws are more relaxed.
Backers of the industry say the stores gives consumers a chance to purchase products that they might not otherwise be able to afford, while consumer groups say rent-to-own businesses prey on the poor.
A bill that passed the Assembly last month would exempt rent-to-own stores from Wisconsin's Consumer Act.
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That means they would no longer have to show customers how much they'd pay in interest if they make rental payments on a product until they own it. Consumer groups say those interest rates can be higher than 200 percent.
The Assembly bill would have also restricted the power of consumers to challenge a rent-to-own business for deceptive practices.
The state Senate committee amended its version of the plan to make it more like the one that passed the Wisconsin Assembly. Senators also amended it to add more legal remedies for consumers.
But Petrowki's "no" vote Wednesday makes it less likely that the plan will become law, especially with the Senate meeting Tuesday for what could be its final regular session day of 2018.
While the Senate could still pass the plan in theory, efforts to deregulate the rent-to-own industry have repeatedly failed at the state Capitol.