The Wisconsin Consumer Act (WCA) is a state law that protects consumers in credit transactions and debt collection. The WCA was enacted in 1973 and is widely regarded as one of the most comprehensive consumer protection laws in the nation.
The WCA applies to all consumer credit transactions, which are transactions that include a finance charge or are payable in more than four installments. Examples of consumer credit transactions include loans, credit cards, credit sales, second mortgages, and leases.
The WCA has a number of provisions that protect consumers, including:
- Required disclosures: The WCA requires creditors to provide consumers with detailed disclosures about the terms of a credit transaction before the consumer agrees to it. These disclosures must include the amount of the finance charge, the annual percentage rate (APR), the monthly payment, and the total amount of the loan.
- Interest rate limits: The WCA limits the amount of interest that can be charged on consumer credit transactions. The maximum interest rate varies depending on the type of transaction.
- Right to cancel: The WCA gives consumers the right to cancel certain credit transactions within three days of signing the contract. This right applies to credit sales, loans, and leases.
- Protections against unfair debt collection practices: The WCA prohibits debt collectors from using unfair or abusive collection practices. These practices include contacting consumers at work or at unusual hours, making threats, or using abusive language.
If you believe that a creditor or debt collector has violated the WCA, you can file a complaint with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (WDFI). The WDFI will investigate your complaint and take appropriate action, if necessary.
You can learn more about the WCA and your rights as a consumer by visiting the WDFI website at www.wdfi.org.
Here are some additional tips for protecting yourself as a consumer:
- Do your research: Before you agree to a credit transaction, be sure to shop around and compare interest rates and other terms.
- Read the fine print: Before you sign any contract, be sure to read it carefully and understand all of the terms.
- Beware of hidden fees: Some creditors may try to charge hidden fees, such as origination fees or prepayment penalties. Be sure to ask about any fees before you agree to a transaction.
- Keep good records: Keep copies of all of your credit agreements and billing statements. This will help you to track your payments and dispute any errors.
- Be assertive: If you have a problem with a creditor, don't be afraid to speak up. You have rights under the WCA.