Anyone attempting to collect a debt arising from a consumer credit transaction in Wisconsin, whether a merchant doing its own debt collecting or a third-party debt collector, must follow Wisconsin’s debt collection law, Wisconsin Statute Ch. 427. This is an important point because many merchants collecting debt owed directly to them mistakenly believe that they are exempt from Wisconsin’s debt collection law because they are not included within the definition of "debt collector" under the federal
Fair Debt Collections Practices Act . The federal law will not be discussed here, but you may access it at the link provided. Compliance with Wisconsin law does not ensure compliance with the federal law and vice versa.
Wisconsin Debt Collection Frequently Asked Questions
This section covers frequently asked questions that creditors have about debt collection practices.
What if the consumer disputes the debt?
Fair Debt Collections Practices Act provides that, for collection agencies, the consumer must contact you within 30 days of receiving the initial notice to inform you they are disputing the debt. You must then halt collection activity until a copy of the verification is sent to the consumer. Once verification has been sent, you may resume collection efforts. If the debt cannot be verified, you must cease activity on the consumer’s account. During the time the consumer is disputing the debt, you may not disclose any information about the debt without also stating that it is being disputed.
Can I threaten to sue the consumer?
Yes. However, such action can only be threatened if it is taken in the regular course of business or is intended with respect to the particular debt at issue. Third-party debt collectors: Note that only the creditor has the authority to decide whether legal action should be taken. A collection agency cannot initiate legal action on its own but can recommend legal action to the creditor. If the original creditor has given authorization to commence legal action, the third-party debt collector may then mention that intended legal action.
What is considered harassment?
Harassment is difficult to describe in exact terms, but it usually means that a collector used obscene or threatening language with a consumer. This includes calling the consumer names, demeaning the consumer’s occupation, or questioning the decisions that led to the consumer’s account being placed with a collection agency. It is also considered harassment to contact the consumer at unusual hours (before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. Central Time), or to call so often that it becomes harassing.
When can I contact a consumer’s employer?
You may contact the consumer’s employer only for the following reasons – to verify employment or the amount of the consumer’s earnings, or to communicate with an employer who has an established debt counseling service or procedure.
Collectors can also contact an employer after a final court judgment has been made on the debt.
Can I contact a neighbor to ask if the consumer still lives at the location listed on the account?
You may contact a third party only to determine if the consumer resides at the location listed on the account. If the consumer has moved, you can also ask for the new address, phone number, and where the consumer is employed. Any further discussion between a third party and a collector is prohibited in Wisconsin. For additional information, see DFI's interpretive letter on
Calls to a Debtor's Friends, Family, and Other Third Parties.
Phone: (608) 264-7969
Toll-Free: (800) 452-3328 (in Wisconsin)
Fax: (608) 264-7968