Kohl’s Shopper Sues Store For Bugging Her About $20 Debt

While most of the complaints we hear about debt collection involve consumers who don’t owe the money they are being hassled to pay. But what often goes undiscussed is the fact that the anti-harassment rules still apply to collectors regardless of whether or not they are trying to collect a bona fide debt.

That’s a point that a Michigan woman is trying to make with Kohl’s, alleging in a lawsuit that the retailer violated federal law by calling her about a $20 debt when it wasn’t allowed to and continuing to contact her even after she told the store to stop.

If she proves her case, Kohl’s attempts to collect $20 could end up costing the company as much as $1,500 per collections call.

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act [PDF] restricts businesses’ use of robocalling while the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act limits the ways in which a debt collector can attempt to contact an alleged debtor.

Starting last November, the plaintiff says that Kohl’s began contacting her about a $20 balance she had on her store credit account. She claims that the calls only got worse after she asked the store to stop contacting her. According to the customer, she received 22 calls from Kohl’s in a single week.

The plaintiff claims that she never gave her express permission for Kohl’s to robocall her, which she says is a violation of the TCPA. If she can prove the store knowingly called her without permission, the retailer could face a substantial penalty of up to $1,500 per call.

Additionally, collections calls came as early as 6 a.m. and as late as after midnight. The FDCPA states that debt collectors can not call supposed debtors 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., unless the debtor has specifically asked them to. Generally speaking, the FDCPA governs third-party debt collectors; its relevance to this case would depend on whether or not Kohl’s employees were making these calls or if they were made by a contracted collections agency.

“People believe that unless (collectors) are swearing at them or being utterly abusive, calling 20 times a day, that they should just take it, when in fact the standard is much less,” her lawyer tells the Detroit Free Press. “(Consumers) need to understand their level of tolerance doesn’t have to be as high as it’s perceived.”