News Column

$20 credit card bill leads Ypsilanti woman to sue Kohl's for harassment

June 17, 2014

By Tresa Baldas, Detroit Free Press



June 17--Enough with the calls.

That's what one consumer is telling Kohl's in a federal lawsuit that claims the department store is stalking her and harassing her by phone over an overdue credit card bill, calling her at all hours of the night over what she calls a measly $20.

"They started harassing me over $20 and I was like, 'screw it, oh well,'" said Lisa Ratliff, the 29-year-old plaintiff from Ypsilanti who got fed up with the calls and opted not to pay her bill. "It's really annoying if you're trying to get things done or you're trying to sleep or you're working or spending time with your family ? your spouse wants to know what the hell it is and what's going on."

She stressed: "I just want them to stop harassing me."

Ratliff is counting on a federal law to help make that happen.

In her lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court, Ratliff claims that Kohl's violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by harassing her with repeated calls when she instructed them to stop calling. The statute allows for plaintiffs to collect up to $1,500 in damages for every violation, which would mean $1,500 for every annoying call.

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Ratliff's lawsuit cited 22 such phone calls in one week alone in May. But, Ratliff has to prove Kohl's was negligent in making those calls, and willfully violated the federal law.

Kohl's officials were not readily available for comment. No attorney of record is yet listed in court documents for Kohl's.

According to Ratliff's lawsuit, the Kohl's phone calls -- which included both automated and live operator calls -- started in November of 2013. Until then, she said, she paid her bill in full every month and that her total credit line was $400. When the calls started, she owed $20. Now it's up to $100 due to late fees and interest, she said.

Shortly after the calls started, Ratliff asked an employee to stop calling her and that she would pay the bill within two weeks. The phone calls continued. Most of the time she hung up; other times she told them they had the wrong number.

Ratliff then got a "block-it" app on her phone, but calls somehow still got through, she said. They would call between midnight and 2 a.m. and start all over again at 6 a.m.

After blocking the call, Ratliff was contacted by the Consumer Law Center in Chicago. They found her, she said, through the app she installed on her cellular phone.

Ratliff, who works as an auditor at a hotel, said she has no other credit cards and that she just wants Kohl's to leave her alone. She'll take care of the bill, she said, adding the calls just have to stop.

"(Ratliff) is annoyed and feels harassed," the lawsuit states.

Contact Tresa Baldas at tbaldas@freepress.com

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(c)2014 the Detroit Free Press

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Source: Detroit Free Press (MI)


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