MADISON (WKOW) -- A prominent state representative is speaking out after our investigation into the Dept. of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, or DATCP.
State Representative Robin Vos (R-Racine) is calling on the department to change its mission and policies in response to reports from victims who never got responses after filing consumer fraud complaints.
"If people are being told Wisconsin is going to have a consumer protection division, the worst we should be doing is taking a while to follow up," said Vos. "It's really troubling. It cries out for some kind of change that hopefully will happen sometime soon."
A WKOW investigation beginning in 2009 reveals the department sometimes ignores, hands off or rushes to close consumer complaints with little to no investigation at all. Many victims don't even get a response.
Vos sat down for an extended interview with WKOW. Here are some of his comments about the investigation and the victims who never got justice:
"Boy, if we see there are consumers where the ongoing fraud is continuing, and since the first claim was filed, more people have had the same bad incident, you'd assume that would be one of those you'd jump on right away. Because consumer protection should start with meaning new consumers are not frauded in the process," said Vos.
"I can't understand how after your story, the secretary did not call down to that division administrator and say get on top of this, we need to fix this today because I don't want one more person getting ripped off. The fact that it's still operating and there are no ramifications on the people choosing not to fulfil their missions, I guess that's an indictment on the people running the agency and that's really unfortunate."
Our investigation also revealed the department at times discussed ways to avoid locating and turning over public records.
"They were trying to figure out how they could sweep them under the rug, hoping maybe you'd go away, and thank goodness you didn't," said Vos.
"Are we're going to tell people we have consumer protection, or, we should say, we can't afford to have consumer protection, you're on your own. I don't think saying we'll do everything, when doing very little, is a fair compromise."
"I don't think we should give people the impression that if you fill out a form and send it to DATCP, we are going to get your money back for you. Sometimes that might occur. Sometimes legal action might be required and the state is not going to provide free lawyers for anyone who has a problem with a company. But the way we have been implying to people is that we're going to help you, by sending a letter saying we're going to investigate and get back to you. Then people don't hear anything at all. That's also misrepresenting what we're doing. I think we should have a fundamental look at how this entire agency operates.