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Legal battle rages over $20 credit card bill

Credit cardholders in Arkansas and the rest of the nation will be paying close attention to a lawsuit recently filed in Michigan. The negligible sum of money that sparked the controversy belies the importance of the debtor rights that are at issue in the lawsuit.

The plaintiff is a Michigan woman who filed the lawsuit in June 2014. She claims to be a victim of creditor harassment that began when she fell behind on her credit card account with a major department store. When she failed to pay an overdue amount of $20, she claims the store or its third-party debt collector harassed her incessantly by telephone, beginning early each morning and persisting late into the night. Regarding the calls as both vexatious and illegal, she refused to pay the bill, which then jumped from $20 to $100 due to late fees and default interest added by the store. The woman thereupon filed suit alleging violations of two federal laws.

The lawsuit contends that the department store illegally used automatic dialing and a prerecorded voice to harass the woman by telephone. Both of those tactics are expressly prohibited by the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act. It also alleges violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which forbids calls from debt collectors placed before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.

This Michigan case is clearly about principle rather than debt relief. However, for those individuals who are facing unmanageable debts that they simply cannot pay, bankruptcy can provide a form of debt relief. There are requirements associated with a Chapter 7 filing that a bankruptcy attorney can explain.

Source: Low Cards, "Woman Sues Kohl’s Over Harassment for $20 Credit Card Bill", Lynn Oldshue, June 26, 2014

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