Wisconsin Consumer Act: Debt Collection Practices
While you have a right to attempt to collect a legitimate debt owed you, Wisconsin law provides that there are certain things you cannot do in attempting to collect that debt arising from a consumer credit transaction or other consumer transaction where there is an agreement to defer payment. Though it may be tempting to "cross the line" in attempting to collect a debt rightfully owed you, be aware that the following actions are illegal and may result in severe penalties. The exact language setting forth prohibited practices can be found at Chapter 427, Wis. Stats (PDF: external link). Below is just a summary of these provisions intended only as a general guide. This summary is not to be relied upon as complete. See the Statutes for the exact language. Also see the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Also see DFI's interpretive letter on Calls to a Debtor's Friends, Family, and Other Third Parties.
Generally, Debt Collectors (including first-party collectors) may not:
Threaten the consumer with any of the following:
- Criminal prosecution;
- Any action not taken in the regular course or intended to be taken against this consumer;
- Otherwise threaten or harass the consumer or others.
Threaten the consumer with or commit any of the following:
- Violence against persons or property;
- Disclosure of false information about the consumers reputation for credit worthiness;
- Contacting the consumers employer, except in certain limited circumstances as outlined at sec. 427.104(1)(d), Wis. Stats. (PDF: external link);
- Disclosure of information affecting the customer's reputation with reason to know that the other person does not have a legitimate business need for the information except as otherwise expressly permitted by statute;
- Disclosure of information concerning the existence of a debt known to be reasonably disputed by the customer without disclosing the fact that the customer disputes the debt;
- Enforcement of a right with knowledge or reason to know that the right does not exist.
- With the consumer or others with harassing frequency or at odd hours (before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. Central Time);
- Using obscene or threatening language;
- Through the use of any communication which simulates legal or judicial process or which gives the appearance of being authorized, issued or approved by a government, governmental agency or attorney-at-law when it is not.