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    Editor's Note
    A Focus on Protecting Consumers

    This month, we spotlight consumer protection systems, issues, laws, and enforcement. As we become smarter consumers ourselves, we’re better able to access the legal protections available when a consumer falls victim to a shady business transaction. Because, who doesn’t deserve a fair value and an honest deal?

    Erik R. Guenther

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    Each month, the Wisconsin Lawyer arrives in the mailboxes of more than 25,000 lawyers, judges, law libraries, and others. Each issue incorporates the labors from an editorial team of State Bar staff, contributions from a volunteer editorial board, and, of course, the talents and energies of our authors. As a long-standing member of the editorial board, I know the efforts that go into producing each issue. To me, every issue is special.

    Erik R. Guentherorg Erik_Guenther fd Erik R. Guenther, U.W. 2002, is an assistant federal defender with the Office of the Federal Public Defender, District of Nevada, and the chair of the State Bar Communications Committee, which serves as this magazine’s editorial advisory board.

    Yet, every so often, Wisconsin Lawyer publishes an issue that may be a bit more special by spotlighting a specific topic of interest. This month, our magazine centers on consumer protection. This issue looks into unfair, deceptive, and fraudulent business practices and how lawyers can help address them.

    The idea for this issue was sparked when Frank Sullivan, chief director of the Consumer Protection and Antitrust Unit of the Wisconsin DOJ, gave a presentation to State Bar staff on consumer protection issues. And he later brought together folks from the various Wisconsin agencies to brainstorm content for this issue with our editorial team. A very special thank you, indeed.

    You will find an article on “Top Consumer Complaints … And What Agency Watchdogs Say You Can Do About Them” written by Dianne Molvig. It is a deep dig into consumer complaints by the numbers and how the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP; usually pronounced “DAT-CAP”) functions. But, consumer protection law is not limited to a government agency and its employees. John Greene authored “Navigating Wisconsin’s Consumer Protection System” to help all lawyers understand the history of Wisconsin’s consumer protection laws, enforcement agencies, and the myriad of statutes addressing consumer complaints. He also offers guidance for consumers to work out disagreements with businesses.

    Mary Cartherine Fons contributes “How to Privately Enforce Consumer Laws” to educate private lawyers on how to better serve clients seeking remedies for unsatisfactory products and services. She discusses how lawyers can obtain attorney fees and costs in some cases, which can make taking cases disputing relatively low dollar transactions more appealing to lawyers. She also wrote the 101 article “Timeshare Sales: A Consumer Protection Perspective,” introducing timeshares, typical sales presentations, and statutory remedies available to Wisconsin lawyers to obtain relief for those defrauded.

    Other related topics are covered in Brandon Bowlin’s Solutions column, “Fair Debt Collection: The Search for the Least Sophisticated Consumer”; in Tom Watson’s Managing Risk column, “Caution: Consumer Protection Law Is Complex”; and in Frank Sullivan’s Final Thought column, “After the Money’s Gone – It’s Too Late.”

    Our hope is that this special focus issue will encourage you to add consumer litigation to your own practice. It will also help us to be smarter consumers who are more aware of legal protections available to us, our families, and our communities. In the end, we all look for a fair value and an honest deal.

    This issue addresses how law can impact the consumer marketplace. Every issue of the Wisconsin Lawyer is an opportunity for you to impact a marketplace of ideas. Please consider writing a letter to the editor, reviewing a book, or developing an article. Together, we can continue to improve an already excellent publication. Your input is valued and welcomed.

    Thanks for reading.