MADISON (WKOW) -- There are new questions and concerns about how the Dept. of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, or DATCP, promotes itself to consumers and lawmakers.
DATCP publishes a glossy brochure that claims consumers save an average of $968 after calling its consumer complaint hotline.
However, after repeated requests, DATCP refuses to explain how it calculates this average and refuses to disclose the number of consumers actually included in the sample.
This is information based on public records open to anyone, yet DATCP is declining to release it.
During the course of our investigation, WKOW has already exposed serious flaws with the department's so-called "90% satisfaction rate."
Survey experts and even the statistician who designed DATCP's survey say they wouldn't stand by how the agency promotes the results. That's because the survey is not scientific and only includes results from 750 people who took the time to reply to the survey, but DATCP makes no attempt to disclose this fact.
In fact, DATCP's spokesman at first gave us wrong information about the survey and only admitted the information was wrong after the department's own internal statistician said so.
Now, the department's claim of "$968 average savings" is also called into serious question.
DATCP's public information officer, Lee Sensenbrenner, told WKOW, "I have a lot of things to do." Sensenbrenner went on to say, "I don't think I can help you any further," and then hung up the phone.
WKOW has requested details for more than a week. We wanted to know how many consumers DATCP surveyed before it calculated an "average."
This is the email response from DATCP's public information officer, Lee Sensenbrenner:
"It's a straightforward process. People who have called the hotline tell us how much money they saved by contacting Consumer Protection. We average the numbers they reported to us. This estimate is done year after year in similar fashion and serves as a benchmark for those interested in following Consumer Protection's annual progress.
The workers at Consumer Protection are proud of the help they are able to give people who call the hotline. When we report what consumers say they are saving by calling the hotline, it not only recognizes the real work that Consumer Protection can do and does, it encourages people to take the first step and act when they believe they have been hurt by unfair business practices. And that's important."
WKOW asked Sensenbrenner last week to provide the total number of consumers who were sampled -- from which DATCP calculates this so-called average -- but Sensenbrenner did not provide this information.
Because DATCP is declining to provide this information freely, WKOW is submitting an Open Records Request to obtain it.