Home > News > Kohl’s Accused of Harassing Customer Over $20 Credit Card Bill

Comments 2 Comments

A Michigan woman is suing Kohl’s after experiencing what she says were incessant and illegal debt-collection calls regarding an unpaid $20 credit card bill. Lisa Ratliff, 29, said she was going to pay the bill but decided not to because she was fed up with the frequent late-night and early-morning calls, which continued after she asked a Kohl’s employee to stop, the Detroit Free Press reports.

Her bill has ballooned from $20 in November to $100 because of interest and late fees. It seems the debt is legitimate; she’s refusing to pay because she says the company broke the law in its efforts to collect from her. Ratliff’s lawyers claim Kohl’s violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which prohibits calls to cellphones using automatic dialing technology or a prerecorded voice without the recipient’s consent.

It’s unclear if the calls came from Kohl’s employees or a third-party debt collector acting on behalf of the company, and Kohl’s did not respond to a request for comment from Credit.com. If it was a third-party collector, Ratliff’s story includes other violations: Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, debt collectors cannot call people before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. unless the consumer agrees to the call.

Considering Ratliff doesn’t seem to be disputing the debt, the account is likely having a negative effect on her credit: Collection accounts are detrimental to credit scores because people who have had such accounts in the past are more likely to fall behind on payments than someone who has never been sent to collections. If Kohl’s is found guilty of Ratliff’s accusations, she may be entitled to restitution, which would allow her to pay off her debt, but even paid collection accounts are negative in most scoring models. As they age, they have less of an impact on scores.

Ratliff’s experience certainly sounds unpleasant, and it’s unfortunately a common one for many consumers who deal with debt collectors. Even when a collector works by the book, they’re unlikely to win the affections of consumers — it’s just one of those commonly loathed professions — but consumers aren’t without responsibility in these situations.

It’s best to be proactive when dealing with a debt collector, by verifying the debt and being familiar with consumer rights. If collection calls are bothering you, you can send the collector a cease and desist letter, but you still need to make a plan for paying off the debt. Here are some tips for negotiating with creditors, which will help you get to a point where you can tackle the debt, move on and start rebuilding your credit. You can track your progress by getting your free credit scores and credit data each month through Credit.com.

More on Managing Debt:

Image: LamplighterSDV

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    We hear all the time from consumers whose credit has been damaged over a small nuisance bill they refuse to pay. Do you really want to fight a collection agency over this? I understand your feeling about the principal of it but your credit scores will likely drop significantly and you may get collection letters and phone calls. It’s up to you but for that small amount of money you may just want to put it behind you. (You can still continue to file complaints.)

    • Delilah Moon

      Terrible advice. Why would you EVER encourage someone to pay a debt, they have already paid? First off, it shouldn’t drastically effect your credit score. If OPs score is in the 850 range, this won’t harm her much (other than the gold star she gives herself for good credit). In the meantime, file the dispute with the credit company and let it play out. Allowing creditors and debtors to get away with reporting false debt is NO BETTER than the consumer who doesn’t pay his/her bill on time.

Credit.com receives compensation for the financial products and services advertised on this site if our users apply for and sign up for any of them.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team