August 21, 2014

DOJ improves protections for consumers

The Wisconsin Department of Justice creates of a new Consumer Protection and Antitrust Unit within the Division of Legal Services at the agency. Simply stated, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen explains “the creation of this unit ought to send a message to those who try to profit from illegal, unfair or deceptive practices.”

Van Hollen says, “It’s gonna allow us to focus a little more, help protect a few more consumers, and hopefully bring more money back to Wisconsin consumers, all at the same time doing it more efficiently within the Department of Justice.”

Van Hollen says the new unit “enhances the role” the DOJ already plays, while continuing to handle mortgage-related complaints and other consumer protection and antitrust matters.

Many of the cases prosecuted are referred to DOJ by other state agencies such as Consumer Protection, or Financial Institutions. “When people call into (those departments) with their complaints,” Van Hollen says, “such as telemarketing calls, such as people fraudulently using the Internet to prey on people … if they cannot settle those cases on their own and they require litigation, those cases get turned over to the DOJ.”

Van Hollen says the DOJ then files suit to make the criminals pay a penalty, and to collect restitution for the consumers who have been wronged. The DOJ already has prosecutors in place, but considering the extra work, Van Hollen says they’ll use some of the $140 million set aside from the mortgage settlement to hire an additional prosecutor and/or investigator if needed for a specific case

Assistant Attorney General John Greene has been appointed director of the new unit. In a statement, the DOJ says Greene is an experienced consumer protection attorney. Consumers can contact the DOJ’s Office of Consumer Protection hotline at (800) 998-0700 or (608) 266-1852.Or Email the office.

AUDIO: Jackie Johnson report 1:45