Walker proposes change to rent to own rules - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Walker proposes change to rent to own rules

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LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW)-- Governor Scott Walker's budget proposal includes a change in the way rent to own companies are regulated.

Right now those companies allowing customers to rent items from TVs to washers and dryers are held to the Wisconsin Consumer Protection Act. The governor's proposal would exempt them from that act and set up new rules for the companies.

Jeff Lebakken, president of Lebakkens Rent to Own, says because it's not a credit transaction, companies like his should be exempt from the act.

"Because of the fact that rent to own is not specifically defined and guided in the how to do business, that uncertainty made them [other rent to own companies] leave the state," Lebakken said.

But not everyone wants the rules to change.

"I don't think they should be held to any other standard then what we have in place," said Mary Jacobson, director of St. Lawrence Community Services, a part of Catholic Charities USA. "There's a reason that act was put in to place, to protect our consumers."

Jacobson says just because a person doesn't have to get a line of credit to rent, doesn't mean it's not risky.

"Most people don't' just return it [rented items]," Jacobson said. "They end up going in to come sort of collections or having a repo done of the furniture or the other items. And so then they end up going to court. And that does get reported."

Jacobson adds renting costs more in the long run and a customer can end up paying double what the item is worth.

"The interest rates have to be higher because you're a bigger risk of not being able to pay it back," Jacobson said.

But Lebakken says those additional costs are in line with the price of doing business.

"Those additional costs, that we have, include repair and maintenance, the right to return the merchandise, delivery of the merchandise, all kinds of things other retailers do not have."

Right now 47 states do have laws specifically for the rent to own industry.

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